Dec 212015
 
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Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 35

I’m Mad as Hell

Your move Mr. Mara.

The 2015 New York Giants nightmare of a season is just about over, unless the football gods want to get in one more last kick to the nuts by dragging this out another week. Regardless of the team’s final record, it is brutally clear this team is poorly constructed. They play hard, but they simply are not good enough.

One of the strengths of the New York Giants organization for the last 36 years is they are not impulsive. There have only been three general managers and six head coaches employed by the Giants during that timeframe, including two short tenures by Ray Handley and Dan Reeves. There was immense pressure to fire Bill Parcells after the 1983 season and Tom Coughlin after the 2006 season, moves which probably would have cost the Giants all four of their Super Bowl titles. Meanwhile, both George Young and Ernie Accorsi retired under their own volition, meaning the team has never fired a traditional, modern era GM.

John Mara and Steve Tisch don’t want to fire Tom Coughlin, a man who will go down in history as one of the team’s top three head coaches in addition to Steve Owen and Parcells. They are conscious of the fact that firing Coughlin after the 2006 season would have been a huge mistake and that the 2015 New York Giants are an undermanned squad that has been competitive in every single game. This is an improvement over the 2012-14 Giants who were on the receiving end of a number of humiliating blowouts.

Seven of the Giants’ eight losses have been by a total of 21 points, and six of them have been by four points or less. But therein lies the danger. Mr. Mara may not be seeing the forest through the trees. Despite having a franchise quarterback who is playing some of the best football of his career and one of the NFL’s most explosive skill players, this team is not getting better in a league and division filled with mediocrity. The Giants are on track for their third losing season in a row, fourth non-playoff season in a row, and sixth non-playoff season in seven years. As great as the 2007 and 2011 campaigns were, one gets the sense that poor talent acquisition and coaching wasted chances at more glory. Numerous offensive and defensive coordinators as well as positional coaches have been fired. And due to poor drafting and an inordinate number of serious injuries, the roster has rotted.

The defense is once again dead last in the NFL. Dead last. This has become the norm for a franchise that prided itself on defense throughout most of its history. They can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer, and they can’t cover. When a game is on the line, they wilt under the pressure. Many of the starters would be backups or wouldn’t even be on the 53-man roster of many other teams. The offense is in better shape because of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and a recent investment in the offensive line, but it has talent issues at well on the right side of the offensive line and the other skill positions. In short, General Manager Jerry Reese has done a horrible, horrible job of acquiring talent.

As for the coaches, they are quality men with a proven track record of success either with the Giants or on other teams. In many ways, they are a victim of Jerry Reese’s poorly-run operation. But in a bottom line business, the team has become too accustomed to losing. Tom Coughlin’s edge seems to be gone. Even under the new CBA rules, practices are not tough. Instead of an angry “no medals for trying” attitude we get “we played hard.” Players freely admit their confidence is shaken. A culture of mediocrity and defeat has gripped a franchise only a few years removed from an NFL title.

The Giants are clearly at a crossroads. They can stay the course, hope Jerry Reese and his staff draft better and make better decisions in free agency than they have. They can hope that a soon-to-be 70-year old Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, and Steve Spagnuolo can take those new pieces and create a better product and somehow reverse the recent cultural demise. Or they can do what they have done in recent years and serve up some scapegoats to appease those thirsting for blood, firing a position coach, or maybe even reorganizing the personnel department.

Less likely, but what should be considered is an entire organizational enema. It is indisputable that the chief reason for the team’s demise is the failure to acquire sufficient talent. There have been too many bad draft picks and too many poor free agent decisions. The occasional success does not erase the fact that the Giants are not getting enough good players. All three levels of the defense are a joke. Offensively, the team can’t run the football and has no one who scares the opposition other than Manning and Beckham. It’s a two man team. How can John Mara not see that? The Giants are no further along on their “rebuild” as when they started after the 2012 season. They got Beckham and improved the offensive line, but the defense has completely fallen off of the cliff. It can’t be fixed in one offseason.

If the Giants are going to make a change, the time is now. Losing has become too easy for this franchise. The coach is approaching retirement age. Most of the roster is completely disposable and therefore malleable. They can completely change their offensive and defensive systems because of that. If there is any doubt within the organization about Reese, then he should be let go too. You don’t want to get into a situation where Reese hires a new head coach and is then fired himself a year later. Getting rid of Reese may seem too reactionary, but Reese has been truly terrible at his job.

General Observations from the Game

The Odell Beckham shenanigans obscure what ended up being a great game. It was expected that the undefeated Carolina Panthers would make short work of a flawed Giants team. With 4:34 left to play before halftime, the game was tied 7-7 as both teams had scored once off of long touchdown marches and each had punted the ball away four times. Then came a disastrous sequence. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped a pick-6. Three plays later Rashad Jennings fumbled the ball away at the New York 46-yard line. Three plays after that, on 3rd-and-1, the defense lost track of Cam Newton’s favorite receiving target, tight end Greg Olsen, as he ran untouched 37 yards for a touchdown. The Giants went three and out. The Panthers made New York pay by driving 72 yards for a commanding 21-7 lead. In the matter of minutes, a close game got out of hand.

The beat down that was expected by many continued in the third quarter. The Giants went three-and-out twice while the Panthers added two more touchdowns to go up 35-7 with 5:32 left in the 3rd quarter. The game was over.

But then began New York’s dramatic comeback as they rallied to tie a game from a 28-point deficit for the first time in their entire team history. Within the span of 15 minutes, they scored four touchdowns, including a dramatic 14-yarder from Manning to Beckham on 4th-and-5 with 1:46 to play. MetLife Stadium went nuts. The Giants only needed one more defensive stop to get the ball back in regulation or send the game into overtime. But for the seventh time this season, the Giants’ defense was unable to make that stop late in a contest with the game in doubt. Carolina kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal with no time left as the Panthers easily gained the 49 yards and four first downs they needed to win the game.

Offensive Observations

Too little too late. As I’ve said for weeks, the Giants need Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to play near-perfect games in order to win. Beckham dropped a 52-yard touchdown on the team’s first drive, got foolishly caught up in a personal battle with Josh Norman, and was a complete non-factor until late in the 3rd quarter. Not counting the give-up play right before halftime, the Giants first nine possessions resulted in one touchdown drive, one turnover, and seven punts (four of which came after three-and-outs).

The offense does deserve credit for the furious comeback effort with four straight touchdown drives of 64, 66, 14, and 66 yards against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Manning ended the day 29-of-46 for 245 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception – the latter partially caused by the pass rush combined with Hakeem Nicks falling down. Manning’s numbers would have been even better had not for a couple of missed opportunities deep to Beckham, including the drop.

The Giants finally got Shane Vereen back into the passing game, as he caught 8 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Beckham almost redeemed himself on the day with two 4th-down conversions, including the game-tying 14-yard touchdown that was also set up his 40-yard catch-and-run. Will Tye chipped in with five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Rueben Randle caught a 27-yarder touchdown but that was due to a breakdown in the Panthers’ pass defense. His other three catches only went for 20 yards.

Jennings’ fumble overshadowed what was sadly the team’s first 100-yard rushing performance by a single ball carrier this year. He ran the ball 16 times for 107 yards (6.7 yards per carry average), including a 38-yard touchdown run. Vereen chipped in with 29 yards on four carries (7.3 yards per carry) and Andre Williams 21 yards on six carries (3.5 yards per carry). The offensive line performed surprisingly well given the quality of the opponent. Manning was not sacked and only officially hit four times. The team rushed for an impressive 161 yards against what had been the NFL’s #4 run defense.

Defensive Observations

The defense has been so bad for so long that we have become accustomed to seeking out minor victories such as forcing four punts in Carolina’s first five possessions and preventing points in four 4th quarter possessions. Bullshit. The defense still gave up three first half touchdown drives, including two in the last 3:30 of the half. It then gave up two more touchdown drives in the 3rd quarter. Two of the 4th quarter “stops” were a blocked field goal after a 62-yard drive that should have put the game away and an unforced turnover. In the end, Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to run for 100 yards, pass for three hundred yards, and throw five touchdown passes. It will likely be his signature performance of his MVP season.

To be honest, I don’t have the heart to discuss this unit in detail. Pointing out bright spots on this defense is like picking out your favorite entree at the Golden Corral. The linebackers and safeties are a joke. The highly-paid cornerbacks laid an egg. The best defensive lineman is playing with one hand. Every Giant fan knew Carolina was going to score in the final 1:46. We knew it. They knew it. Needing a late stand, the defense has faltered against the Cowboys, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Redskins, Jets, and Panthers. They are dead last defensively despite not having to face a slew of top quarterbacks or offenses. It’s a sad day when Giants fans wish their defense could be “as good” as the Browns, Colts, and Jaguars or any other team in the NFL

Without their bell cow running back Jonathan Stewart, the Giants knew they had to stop Cam Newton on the ground. They didn’t. Instead, he had his best rushing day of the year. The defense also knew it couldn’t let the Panthers’ mediocre group of wideouts do much damage. Instead, “stalwarts” such as Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, and Devin Funchess caught 15 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen chipped in with 79 more yards and a touchdown. Newton ended the day with a 116.9 quarterback rating. The New York Giants no longer know how to acquire defensive talent or coach them. This has been problem for years now.

Special Teams Observations

The 36-yard punt return by Ted Ginn set up Carolina’s final touchdown. Dwayne Harris was kept in check. The blocked punt by Rodgers-Cromartie was a momentary game-saver.

Coaching Observations

It’s clear the coaching staff is saddled with a weak roster. It’s a tribute to the coaches and players that all but one of the games have been competitive. That said, the coaching staff shares the blame. As mentioned in other game reviews, there have been questionable decisions from the head man. In this particular contest, his original choice to punt on 4th-and-2 trailing 35-7 was a curious one. Eli correctly waived off the punt team to keep the comeback alive. Despite Coughlin’s and Ben McAdoo’s protestations to the contrary, this game was more evidence that there has been too much running back by committee and not enough of a focus on Jennings and Vereen. Spagnuolo has made some odd personnel choices late in games such as having Craig Dahl cover Josh Reed out of the slot against the Redskins and Uani ‘Unga cover guys like Jason Witten of the Cowboys and Greg Olsen of the Panthers.

Tom Coughlin should have benched Odell Beckham. His decision not to seems to suggest that he at least believes he is coaching for his football life. Coughlin knows that without Manning and Beckham, this team is beyond dreadful.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Josh Norman, Cortland Finnegan, and many of the Panthers defenders are tools, and Norman sounds like a little bitch. But Odell Beckham allowed him to get under his skin and it impacted the entire team. It may have cost his 52 teammates a playoff spot and his coaches their jobs. The game is not about individuals, no matter how good you are. Now it’s up to Odell to decide whether he will learn and grow from this incident. He should use it to fuel an even greater fire and lift his entire team in years to come.

(Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, December 20, 2015)
Dec 202015
 
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CAROLINA PANTHERS 38 – NEW YORK GIANTS 35…
The 2015 New York Giants have turned heart-breaking losses into an art form. The Giants fell 38-35 to the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the defeat, the Giants fell to 6-8, having lost four of their last five games. With the Washington Redskins beating the Buffalo Bills, the Giants’ playoff hopes are dead unless the Arizona Cardinals defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (December 20, 2015)

Another Last-Second Heart-Breaker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants lost the game despite a valiant 28-point comeback that tied the game with 1:46 left to play. But as has been the case all season, the Giants’ defense could not prevent the opposition from scoring the game-winning points late in the game as Carolina kicked a 43-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock.

“To go out there and just let them drive down the field is just mind-boggling,” said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after the game.

Aside from one drive, the Giants’ offense was largely inept in the first half. Their first seven possessions of the game resulted in five punts, one lost fumble, and a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Wide receiver Odell Beckham struggled for most of the game and he dropped a sure 52-yard touchdown pass on New York’s first possession. Beckham, losing his composure, was flagged with three personal foul penalties in the contest and did not have a catch until late in the third quarter. The Giants did tie the game 7-7 late in the first quarter when quarterback Eli Manning found wide receiver Rueben Randle for a 27-yard touchdown.

Defensively, in the first half, the Giants allowed three touchdowns drives of 88, 46, and 72 yards. Quarterback Cam Newton accrued 66 rushing yards and threw three touchdown passes before intermission. Rodgers-Cromartie dropped what should have been a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.

What had been a tight 7-7 game turned late in the second quarter. It was here where Rodgers-Cromartie dropped the interception. Then running back Rashad Jennings fumbled the ball away at the New York 46-yard line. Three plays later on 3rd-and-1, Newton found a wide open tight end Greg Olsen for a 37-yard touchdown with 2:14 left in the first half. After a three-and-out, Carolina got the ball back at their own 28-yard line with 1:24 left to play. The Panthers drove the length of the field in 69 seconds to take a commanding 21-7 halftime lead on Newton’s 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Funchess.

After both teams exchanged punts to start the second half, the Panthers went up 28-7 after a 7-play, 80-yard drive resulted in Newton’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, this one from 20 yards out to wide receiver Corey Brown. The Giants then went three-and-out again and the Panthers built what looked like an insurmountable 35-7 lead after a 36-yard punt return and a 7-play, 37-yard drive ended with Newton’s fifth touchdown pass of the game, and second to wide out Ted Ginn.

Will Tye, New York Giants (December 20, 2015)

Will Tye – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With less than six minutes to play in the third quarter, the Giants began their furious comeback. New York started with a 13-play, 64-yard drive in which the the Giants converted on 4th-and-2 on a 5-yard pass to Beckham after Manning passionately called off the punt team. The drive ended with an 8-yard touchdown throw to tight end Will Tye on 3rd-and-4. After a three-and-out by the Panthers, the Giants cut the score to 35-21 on Jennings’ 38-yard touchdown run, finishing a 4-play, 66-yard drive.

It looked like the Panthers put the game away on their ensuing possession when they drove 62 yards in 9 plays to set up a 34-yard field goal attempt with nine minutes left to play. But the field goal attempt was blocked by Rodgers-Cromartie and recovered by cornerback Prince Amukamara at the Carolina 46-yard line. The game looked over again when Manning was intercepted in the end zone with 7:33 left to play. However, two plays later, defensive end Kerry Wynn recovered a fumble off a botched hand-off and New York was back in business. Three plays later, Manning hit running back Shane Vereen for an 8-yard score on 3rd-and-4. The Giants now trailed 35-28 with 5:27 to play.

The Panthers went three-and-out and the Giants got the ball back at their own 34-yard line with 4:17 left to play. They drove the length of the field, 66 yards, in seven plays to tie the game 35-35 with 1:46 left when Manning found Beckham for a 14-yard touchdown on 4th-and-5. Beckham had also caught a 40 yard pass earlier on the drive on 3rd-and-3.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 20, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With 28 unanswered points and all of the momentum, the Giants could not seal the deal. The defense allowed the Panthers to easily gain 49 yard yards in eight plays to set up the game-winning field goal with no time left.

Offensively, the Giants gained 406 total net yards (161 yards rushing, 245 yards passing). The Giants lost two turnovers (one fumble and one interception). Jennings carried the ball 16 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. The leading receivers were Vereen (8 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown), Beckham (6 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown), Tye (5 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown), and Randle (4 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown).

Defensively, the Giants allowed 480 total net yards (171 yards rushing, 309 yards passing). The Giants recovered one fumble (by Wynn). Newton ran for 100 yards and completed 25-of-45 passes for 340 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The Giants did accrue three sacks: 1.5 by defensive end Robert Ayers, 1.0 by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and 0.5 by linebacker J.T. Thomas. The Giants also had nine pass defenses.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Safety Cooper Taylor (concussion), WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder), and fullback Nikita Whitlock (knee) all suffered injuries in the game.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were DE George Selvie (concussion), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot), WR Geremy Davis, OG Adam Gettis, OT Emmett Cleary, and CB Jayron Hosley.

With eight losses, the Giants are assured of finishing no better than .500 for the third consecutive season.

Seven of the Giants’ eight losses have been by a total of 21 points, and six of them have been by four points or less.

The Giants have lost three consecutive home games for the second consecutive season.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it is the first time in their history the Giants rallied from a 28-point deficit to tie a game.

QB Eli Manning’s four scoring throws increased his season total to a career-high 32, the third-highest figure in Giants history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle threw 36 in 1963 and 33 in 1962. Manning’s previous best was 31 touchdown passes in 2010.

Manning increased his career total to 291 touchdown passes. That moved him past another Hall of Famer, Johnny Unitas (290), and into ninth place on the NFL’s career list.

WR Odell Beckham’s streak of consecutive 100-yard games ended at six, a franchise record.

Beckham has 13 touchdown receptions this year, tying the single-season franchise record set by Homer Jones in 1967. He had 12 touchdowns as a rookie last season, and has scored 25 in his 26-game NFL career.

ARTICLES…

Dec 182015
 
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Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Cullen Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, December 20, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Despite the fact that the Giants are tied with the Eagles and Redskins for first place in the NFC East, they are in deep trouble. If the Giants lose to the Carolina Panthers as expected, and the Eagles and Redskins both win, the Giants are all but officially eliminated from division title contention and most likely any serious shot at a Wild Card playoff spot. Thus, for all intents and purposes, this is a playoff game for the Giants. If they lose, they have to pray the Bills beat the Redskins in Maryland and/or the Cardinals beat the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Giants could not have picked a worse opponent for a must-win game. The undefeated 13-0 Panthers are the most physical team in football. The are top five defensively against both the run and the pass and they are the second-best running team in the NFL. The Panthers are +18 in turnover differential having forced a league-leading 33 takeaways (21 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles). They average 31.6 points per game while only allowing an average of 18.7 points per game.

“The hard thing for the Giants is the Panthers are such a physical team on both sides of the ball,” ex-Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick told The New York Post. “That’s typically been a hallmark for the Giants, but I don’t know if you can look at the Giants and say they are a physical team. That’s going to be the challenge for them: Can they raise up and be that physical team? That Panthers defense looks like a Giants defense. They put pressure on you with the four-man rush. They make you pay in the open field. They are going to have match physicality on both sides.”

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder – questionable)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – questionable)
  • DE George Selvie (concussion – out)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot – out)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 4-3 defense of the Panthers is #3 in the NFL (#4 against the run and #5 against the pass). They are third in the NFL in sacks with 40, eighth defensively on 3rd down, and 9th in red zone defense. They are a physical AND fast group that has a league-leading 33 forced turnovers, including four defensive scores.

They are strong at all three levels, particularly in the front seven. Carolina has arguably the best defensive tackle duo in football in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short (9 sacks). Left defensive end Charles Johnson and right end Jared Allen have been two of the better ends in the NFL for years and they are backed up by very good players in their own right such as Kony Ealy and Mario Addison who each have 5 sacks on the season. As good as the defensive line is, particularly inside at tackle, the entire linebacking corps may be the strength of the defense. All three starters are fast, physical play makers who can defend the run, rush the passer, and cover. The headliner is Luke Kuechly, arguably the best middle linebacker in football. He is not only his team’s second leading tackler but he has 4 interceptions and one touchdown. Weakside linebacker Thomas Davis and strongside linebacker Shaq Thompson are also very good. Davis is the team’s leading tackler, has 5.5 sacks, and has picked off 3 passes and forced 4 fumbles. The secondary is led by Josh Norman (4 interceptions, 16 pass defenses, and 2 defensive scores), who some suggest has replaced Seattle’s Richard Sherman as the best cornerback in football. Free safety Kurt Coleman has 7 interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Ex-Saint Roman Harper is a physical player. Ex-Bear Charles Tillman returns this week after missing four games with a knee injury. Ex-Titans dickhead Cortland Finnegan now mans the nickel spot due to the loss of Bene’ Benwikere.

In short, these guys are damn good.

The Giants are not going to be able to run the football. Right guard John Jerry will not be able to move Lotulelei off of the line of scrimmage and right tackle Marshall Newhouse will likely have trouble with Johnson over his head. Short is having an All-Star year and will probably be the toughest opponent left guard Justin Pugh sees this season. That is, as long as Pugh doesn’t have to shift over to left tackle again with Ereck Flowers struggling with a high ankle sprain. If Pugh has to shift and Dallas Reynolds has to come in and block Short, forget it. At that point, the running backs and Eli Manning will want to check their medical insurance coverage. Allen may be in the twilight of his career, but the savvy veteran will still be a handful for the hurting Flowers.

The only shot the Giants have in this game is to use the quick passing game with an occasional deep shot down the field. They may sprinkle in some shot-gun runs just to keep the rushers honest, but Rashad Jennings and crew simply are not going to be able to do much on the ground. To pull off the upset, Eli will have to play at the level he did against the Dolphins. He doesn’t have to complete 87 percent of his passes, but he has to be able to carry the offense and NOT turn the ball over against a defense that thrives off of interceptions and forced fumbles. The issue here, however, is also match-ups. Norman has erased some of the best receivers in the game including Mike Evans, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones. For a team that lives or dies based on the performance of Odell Beckham, a sub 8 or 9 catch and 100+ yard performance would be devastating to the Giants chances. Also, the linebackers of the Panthers can cover and take out Shane Vereen and Will Tye. In short, the Giants chances may come down to Eli getting repeatedly hit with no running game and having to rely on Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris (who is hurt and may not play) getting open and have near 100-yard performances, all while not turning the football over. What are the chances of that? If I’m McAdoo, I move Beckham around all over the place…slot, backfield, put him in motion…find different and unique ways to get the ball in his hands.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
No other team has an offense like Carolina’s. They are the only team in the NFL that runs the ball more than it passes. The Panthers lead the NFL in scoring with over 31 points per game. However, much of that productivity is due to their defense giving their offense the ball in plus territory and having scored a league-high 117 points off of the mistakes from other teams. That said, this is a very physical offense that wears down opponents. They are 11th overall (2nd running and 26th passing). The Panthers are superb in the red zone, being 4th in the NFL.

It all begins and ends with quarterback Cam Newton, who is not only having a career year but an MVP season. He already has a career-high 28 touchdown throws in addition to seven rushing touchdowns. Newton has thrown 20 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone. This despite the fact that Newton is only completing 59 percent of his passes and his leading wide receivers are journeymen.

Newton’s leading target is tight end Greg Olsen (65 catches for 969 yards and 6 touchdowns). That’s bad news for a Giants team that has had issues covering tight ends in the middle of the field all season. His leading wide receivers are journeyman Ted Ginn, Jr., who only has 37 catches but is averaging 17.4 yards per catch with 8 of those receptions going for touchdowns. No other receiver on the roster has more than 29 receptions but they do have 14 touchdown receptions to complement the 14 scored by Olsen and Ginn.

The issue for the Giants is Newton’s mobility. The Panthers are the last of the teams to feature the read-option. Newton has an astounding 111 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and the aforementioned seven touchdowns (the Giants only have three rushing touchdowns all season!). Newton is able to handle the pounding because he is so big and strong. This is huge problem for a Giants team that has struggled with the read-option for years, and even just last Monday when Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was running it against them. New York still doesn’t seem to have a feel as to how to defend this type of offensive scheme. Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers were caught out of position a number of times by Tannehill. Newton’s mobility also causes huge issues in the passing game where he still tends to do more damage outside of the pocket when a play breaks down. Sacks will not be as important this week as pass rush discipline. Keep Newton from scrambling, either to extend a pass play or rushing for yardage. The Giants may want to spy Newton.

The good news for the Giants is that Carolina will be missing their feature running back, Jonathan Stewart. Newton and Stewart have been the ground game for the Panthers all year. Their next leading rusher is their fullback, Mike Tolbert, with 45 carries. No one else on the roster has more than 18 carries this year. So the Giants lucked out or they are going to turn some unknown player into a star this week. The offensive line of the Panthers is really a no-name group that has performed well given their lack of pedigree.

On paper, other teams should not be having as much trouble with the Panthers as they have been. It’s an offense with a running QB, a good tight end and running back, a one-trick pony deep threat at wide receiver, and not much else. But the Panthers rush the football well (2nd in the NFL), don’t turn the football over (only 15 all season), and score in the red zone (4th best). And Cam Newton is playing out of his mind. The Giants are fortunate that Stewart isn’t playing. The keys are obvious: defend the read-option and cover the tight end. But these are two things the Giants are terrible at. If they can somehow, for one game, manage to reverse that, they will have a shot to really slow down the Panthers’ offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Punt returner Ted Ginn, Jr. has four career punt touchdown returns, including a 71-yarder against the Giants as a Cardinal last season. But he has also fumbled the ball away 12 times in his career on punt returns. The longest kickoff return Carolina has all season is 33 yards. Place kicker Graham Gano has converted on 84 percent of his field goal attempts and 64 percent of his kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. Punter Brad Nortman is averaging 45.7 yards per punt with none blocked.

Tom Coughlin never calls for trick plays on special teams. Against this opponent, he may have to in order to keep his team’s playoff chances alive. The Giants also need a special effort from the injured Dwayne Harris, who may not play.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on defending Cam Newton: “We’ve talked about how dangerous he can be when he gets out(side the pocket). When he gets out, the guys on the back end are in a bind. Do you stay in coverage, and he runs for a number of yards? Or do you come out of coverage and try to tackle? Then he has a tendency to dump the ball off or get it downfield…he does that a lot when he scrambles. Better if we just play the percentages and keep him in the pocket and have some tighter coverage downfield, we think that might be helpful. Now really, keeping him in the pocket means we’d like to finish it and maybe get a sack or a knockdown. Look, the guy’s a quality quarterback. We’ll try to mix it up a little bit and hopefully we’ll get some success on the front end with the pass rush.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants are still largely a finesse team that has issues with more physical football teams. And the Panthers are the most physical football team in the NFL. The Giants are not going to be able to run the ball so they must move it through the air without making too many mistakes (turnovers, sacks, penalties). It will have to be quick passing with an occasional deep shot. It will be interesting to see how the loss of Stewart impacts the Carolina offense. Pray the Giants don’t turn one of the no-name running backs into a hero. The defense is going to have to reverse its shoddy play against the read-option and covering tight ends to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Keep in mind, the Panthers’ offense has thrived off of good field position provided by their defense. How the Giants’ offense performs could very well impact the play of the defense this week.

Sep 222013
 
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Kevin Boothe (77) and Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 22, 2013)

Eli Manning Sacked Seven Times – © USA TODAY Sports Images

No Pride and No Fight – Carolina Panthers Annihilate New York Giants 38-0: The Carolina Panthers embarrassed the New York Giants 38-0 on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the loss, the Giants fell to 0-3, their worst start since 1996. The 38-point margin of defeat was the most one-sided loss by the Giants in the Tom Coughlin era. The Giants are now 3-8 in their last 11 regular-season games and 1-5 in their last six regular-season games, including three uncompetitive blowout losses.

“We never gave ourselves a chance, competitively, to be in the game,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin after the game. “I expect everybody in that room to fight with the same passion I have. And I’ll be looking hard for those who are not.”

For all intents and purposes, the game was over at halftime as the Giants were trounced by an injury-riddled, undermanned, and win-less Carolina team. More disheartening than the score was the lack of fight showed by what should have been a desperate and angry New York team.

The Panthers led 17-0 at halftime as Carolina out-gained New York 13 to 2 in first downs, 163 to 18 in total net yards, 66 to 17 in net yards rushing, and 97 to 1 net yards passing. QB Eli Manning was sacked six times before intermission, with LT Will Beatty giving up three sacks.

“That is not by any means, New York Giants football. I’m embarrassed,” said OC David Baas. “We take a lot of pride in keeping Eli clean. That was definitely not the case today.”

“The NFL season doesn’t wait for anybody,” said OG Kevin Boothe. “Whatever it is we have to fix it. For some reason we’re not playing at a very high level at all.”

After that first-half drubbing, the Giants decided to lay down like dogs and take simply accept another beat down with QB Cam Newton firing three second-half touchdown passes. By the end of the game, the Giants were out-gained 402 to 150 total net yards. The Giants were held to 60 rushing yards (14 by Manning) while the Panthers rushed for 194 yards.

Ex-New York Giants’ linebacker Chase Blackburn said he helped his new team decipher the Giants’ offense.

“I had an idea of what they run and what they like to do in situations,” Blackburn said. “We had a great game plan going in. I’ve been sharing all the information all week. Guys, all of us, linebackers were out there knowing what to do; (defensive backs) knew what kind of routes they were going to get off the route combinations. It makes for a big difference when you can play the game at that speed. We were able to play fast because we were aware of what they were going to do.”

The Panthers’ secondary was riddled with injuries, but Carolina was able to exert tremendous pressure on Manning with just their down four defensive linemen.

“Obviously they didn’t put their secondary out there on an island much and were able to get great pressure with just bringing four guys,” Manning said. “When you can drop seven guys and rush four and get pressure, it’s going to make it hard for any offense to have a successful passing game.”

“Words aren’t going to fix anything,” said Manning. “It’s about us having great practices and going out there and playing better on game day.”

“There’s something missing right now,” said DE Justin Tuck. “Guys need to look at themselves in the mirror, because if it isn’t ugly now, it can get uglier from here.”

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

Injury Report: FB Henry Hynoski fractured his left shoulder in the game. “I never had a significant shoulder injury, I don’t even know myself the extent of this,” said Hynoski after the game. “We’re going to find out tomorrow, we’re getting more tests done and we’ll go from there. Like I approached my last injury, I’m just going to try and get back at the earliest convenience to be there for my team.”

S Cooper Taylor also injured his shoulder in the game. He needed help getting dressed after the game; there is no word yet on the severity of the injury.

Post-Game Press Conferences: Video highlights from the post-game press conferences with Head Coach Tom Coughlin, QB Eli Manning, and DE Justin Tuck are available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were QB Ryan Nassib (foot), RB Michael Cox, TE Adrien Robinson (foot), OT David Diehl (thumb), OG Brandon Mosley (back), DT Johnathan Hankins, and CB Corey Webster (hip).

Sep 202013
 
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Justin Tuck, New York Giants (September 20, 2012)

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013: First off all, hopefully stating the obvious, the sky is not falling. Yet. The New York Giants are 0-2, but the Dallas Cowboys are 1-1, Washington Redskins 0-2, and Philadelphia Eagles 1-2. There are 14 regular-season games left to play. The Giants will have to make up that loss to the Cowboys in the Meadowlands, but despite being winless, they are very much in the chase for the division title.

The immediate goal is to get that first win this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. Get to 1-2. Then get that second win against the Kansas City Chiefs and get to 2-2. Do that and the Giants will have weathered the early storm.

The problem for the G-Men is that their margin for error right now is very slim. The Giants should beat the Panthers, but on any given Sunday in the NFL, a lesser opponent can beat anyone. And an 0-2 New York Giants team had better not be too blase and it had better take care of business or it will be time to panic.

The negative-nellie will point to the fact that the Giants are 3-7 in their last 10 regular-season games. Eli Manning has regressed. The running attack is dead last in the NFL. The Giants have committed 10 turnovers in two games. The offensive line is not playing well. The defense, while improved, is still not dictating to opponents and the Giants only have two sacks.

The fan wearing rose-colored glasses will point to the belief that the Giants still have the best coaching staff, quarterback, and wide receivers in the division. Believe it or not, the defense may also be the best in the division. Barring injury, the offensive line should improve as it gains cohesion and that in turn should help the running game improve as David Wilson is still lightning in a bottle. The secondary and defensive tackles are playing well and the productivity of the defensive ends should pick up.

This game is not so much about who the Giants are playing but about the Giants themselves. The team needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. Cut out the turnovers and the Giants will be OK. “First you have to stop beating yourself before you expect to go out and beat the opponent,” says Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

New York Giants on Offense: The Panthers have been giving up a lot of yards (over 800) but not a lot of points (36). The Giants are facing a defensive opponent that is far stronger in the front seven than it is in the secondary. The problems for Carolina in the defensive backfield have been exacerbated by injuries.

So the Giants are a far more dangerous passing team and Carolina struggles much more defending the pass. What would your game plan be?

The Panthers know this as well. They’ll probably play a lot two-safety high coverage and dare the Giants to beat them on the ground. That’s what I would do. So the big question is do the Giants take advantage of that and try to get untracked running the ball against a good front seven? Or do they attack through air against a defense expecting it?

I would do the latter. I don’t think the Panthers can cover the Giants’ receivers. But if the Giants go with that strategy, the Giants need to keep Eli upright. RT Justin Pugh will face a tough test against against LDE Charles Johnson. RDE Greg Hardy is no slouch rushing the passer either. LDT Dwan Edwards (bothered by a thigh injury) and first-rounder RDT Star Lotulelei man the inside.

The Giants do need to run the ball some too in order to not put too much pressure on the passing game. They also need Eli to rebound from two disappointing performances.

“There is a balance,” says Coughlin. “One of those balances is run it better so we’re not throwing it 49 times a game. Let’s get this thing back into a reasonable number and then let’s run the ball so the play action passes allow us to have more people open. And then we have to take care of the football and realize, again, that patience is a virtue. Sometimes you’re not going to get the big play, you’re going to be able to get five and seven and eight yards and so on and so forth. And that’s fine, that’s what we want to do. We want to stay within ourselves, take what the defense gives us.”

That seems to suggest Coughlin thinks Eli has been forcing things down the field too much.

The Panthers are solid up front. And they are very strong at linebacker, led by impressive MLB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is the type of linebacker Giants’ fans currently crave. Jon Beason (bothered by a knee injury) and Thomas Davis round out an athletic group that can hit and tackle. It is tough to run against this group.

“It’s shocking to us when we don’t play well,” says OG Kevin Boothe. “You can’t have zero and negative yard rushing plays and expect your offensive coordinator to continue to call running plays. If we can get positive yards (Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride will have) more incentive to call it, will be more likely to call it. We’re anxious to get out there and give it another shot.”

The Panthers are really beat up and undermanned in the secondary, having to rely on some players who were recently signed off of the street. I’d attack early and often through the air, even if there is an early turnover. Take the wind of the 0-2 Panthers, and then come back later in the contest with the ground game.

New York Giants on Defense: Carolina is not scoring a lot of points, but they can run the football.

“Their offensive team is sixth in rushing,” says Coughlin. “They’re fourth in the league on third down. They’re doing an outstanding job of that. Over the past two seasons, they’ve had the most plays in the league over 20 yards, so they do have that capability as well. They do not beat themselves. They only had seven penalties, two fumbles and an interception in their first two games.”

The three keys on defense are (1) stop RB D’Angelo Williams, (2) keep QB Cam Newton from hurting you on the ground, and (3) don’t allow WR Steve Smith to beat you deep.

The other guy to keep an eye on is TE Greg Olsen, who Newton has been looking for early and often through the first two games.

The #1 goal is really to stop the run. The Panthers probably won’t be able to do much damage between the tackles on the Giants, but they surely noticed the two big outside running plays the Giants gave up last week.

“Our defense was playing so well against the run for so long and (then) giving up two really cheap touchdowns outside,” says Coughlin. “Where were we? Where was the leverage? Where was the contain? Where were the people knifing in?”

The ends have to play far tougher at the point-of-attack, the defensive backs need to come up in run support, and the linebackers need to avoid blocks and flow to the ball carrier. Both in terms of run defense and dealing with Olsen in coverage, this is a big game for the linebackers. If Mark Herzlich struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see newcomer Allen Bradford replace him soon.

The good news for the Giants is that the Panthers’ offensive line is a bit shaky with additional injury issues and Newton will hold onto the football. So the pass rush should finally emerge this weekend as long as the Giants get the Panthers into obvious passing situations. Given Newton’s mobility, however, the first responsibility is to contain him. LT Jordan Gross is probably the steadiest of the group.

Stop the run. Contain Newton. Don’t let Smith beat you deep.

(Late Note: CB Corey Webster is “doubtful” for the game with a hip flexor injury).

New York Giants on Special Teams: Ted Ginn is a dangerous punt and kickoff returner. Steve Weatherford needs to bounce back from probably his worst performance as a Giant.