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Questions Abound As Giants Fall To 0-3

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Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.

When a team loses a close, competitive football game, that loss can be used as a building block to get better, to learn from mistakes, and to hopefully correct them as the season goes on. However, when a team loses a football game the way the Giants lost to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, there is virtually nothing that can be salvaged from the flaming, mangled wreckage.

The way the New York Giants lost their first two games of the season was not exactly what you would call "promising" — after all, they were marred by 10 turnovers, a nonexistent run game, and suspect defensive play. However, the Giants were competitive for the majority of their first two games and even had a chance to win late in Week 1. On Sunday, the Giants were not competitive, nor did it seem like they ever had a chance to win from the moment the Panthers put their first seven points on the board.

From a football standpoint, the Giants did nothing right on Sunday. You can run down a checklist of everything a football team needs to execute successfully on game day in order to be competitive, and the Giants accomplished virtually none of those things. Against an 0-2 Carolina Panthers squad playing with a banged-up secondary and a quarterback that their defense seemed to have figured out in their Week 3 meeting last season, the Giants were manhandled, bullied and pushed all over the field for 60 minutes in what was one of the flattest and most uninspired performances I've ever seen a Giants team submit.

Simply stating that it was a terrible performance does nothing, though. Anyone with eyes and a cursory knowledge of how the game of football works could have told you the same thing about Sunday's game. The important thing to figure out is why the Giants were so bad on Sunday and what they need to do to get better. There may not be a simple solution to this team's early-season struggles, and it may be a problem that needs to be solved through a dismantling and rebuilding process. But first, the problems need to be identified.

Sure, you can reasonably say that there was a problem with every single facet of the Giants' performance on Sunday. The offensive line was nothing more than a set of subway turnstiles, the running game was moot, the passing game disappeared as a result of those last two things, and it seemed like the defense just kind of gave up after a while.

On the offensive side of the ball, though, most of the problems can be traced directly to the poor offensive line play. In fact, if Sunday's game was like a crime scene from Dexter (and it was certainly just as gruesome), then all of those red strings would lead back to one place: the offensive line.

Simply saying the offensive line underachieved on Sunday is an understatement. The offensive line performed so poorly for a majority of the game that there were a few instances where it seemed as though Eli Manning was being protected by five large Hefty bags filled with dead leaves. Manning was sacked six times before the first quarter even expired, and was unable to take a five-step drop all game because by the time he set his feet to throw, there was a Panther defensive end (or three) in his face. As frustrating as this probably was for Manning, it was almost 10 times as frustrating to watch on TV.

With the offensive line unable to block for anyone, the running game stayed in neutral, just as it has been all season. With only 73 rushing yards on the season going into Sunday's game, the Giants gained 60 against Carolina to push their season total to 133 — or about 61 yards fewer than what the Panthers gained on the ground on Sunday. Without a running game, the Giants aren't doing much on first and second down, thus creating often impossible third-and-long scenarios that leave the offense no choice but to throw the football. And when they chose to throw it, we all know how that turned out. No pass protection left Manning with virtually no time to allow his receivers to run their routes and no time to throw the football downfield.

As a result, the Giants offense was never able to string together anything that even remotely resembled a drive, and Manning was never able to find a rhythm. The entire offense looked completely out-of-sync for the majority of the afternoon. On the rare occasion when it looked like they might break through, like early in the second quarter when it appeared that David Wilson had scored on a 17-yard run to tie the game, the offensive line found a way to nullify it with a holding penalty.

Will Beatty was the lineman who committed that penalty which took seven points off the board for the Giants. His afternoon was particularly bad, as he also allowed three sacks in addition to committing that back-breaking penalty. He looked overmatched and underprepared from the first snap, and yet he remained on the field with each possession, becoming a revolving door for Panthers pass rushers. But he wasn't the only culprit — just the most visible one. Although we all knew the unit needed some work prior to the season, the Giants' offensive line issues appear to be far worse than anyone had expected coming out of the preseason.

Drafting Justin Pugh was a step in the right direction, but if the offensive line play continues to be this bad, then the only option is to start from scratch and completely rebuild it. Without an adequate running game, Manning struggles, the passing game struggles, and an offense that can be one of the more explosive in the league is reduced to a bunch of three-and-outs, fumbles, miscues and desperate heaves downfield.

At 0-3, the Giants have dug themselves a pretty deep hole. In fact, they haven't started a season 0-3 since Dan Reeves was walking the sidelines at the Meadowlands and a guy named Dave Brown was taking snaps from center. What's worse is that the Giants have their work cut out for them in Week 4, going up against a 3-0 Chiefs team and a head coach that has had his way with the Giants for the better part of the last decade. If things looked bleak on Monday morning after a 38-0 loss to the Panthers, that feeling will only be amplified if this team loses a fourth straight.