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Cover 3: Takeways from Giants vs. Panthers

In this week’s “Cover 3” on Giants.com, we break down the team’s 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 5.

JOHN SCHMEELK: For all the big plays and controversial calls, in the end the game was decided by the fundamentals. The Giants were minus-1 in the turnover department, with their special teams turnover turning into a touchdown for the Panthers. It was the difference. The Giants could not block in the running game. Saquon Barkley had two spectacular runs he created on his own of 30 and 20 yards. His other 13 carries went for a loss of two yards. The Giants had eight penalties for 62 yards, including some that extended Panthers drives. Odell Beckham Jr. dropped a pass on fourth down. The team had a bunch of missed tackles on the Panthers’ first touchdown drive. Sterling Shepard and Eli Manning were not on the same page on the team’s second interception. No one covered Christian McCaffrey on his 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. These are all very correctable mistakes, each one of which could have turned a Giants defeat into a victory.

DAN SALOMONE: Not again. First Jake Elliott. Now Graham Gano. How many times do the Giants have to lose on a 60-yard field goal? The reality, though, is they could have avoided being in the helpless position of watching the ball sail through the uprights once again. There was a lot to digest for the Giants coming out of Carolina, but it can all be boiled down to situational football. They did not convert a third down, which had not happened for the franchise since 2006. One interception became two. One penalty became three. One missed tackle became four. Winning teams don’t make these mistakes. And if they do, they don’t let them linger. The Giants are not a winning team – for now.

One of the famous Yogi-isms is “it gets late early out there.” It certainly feels that way for Giants fans right now, but in the NFL, it can actually stay early late. That’s the good news for the 1-4 Giants, who have only one fewer win than the NFC East-leading Redskins (which could change depending on their Monday night game in New Orleans). In a man-whipping-man sport like football, teams need statement games. Big Blue has a big platform to make one this week when the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles come to MetLife Stadium on Thursday night. A win would certainly keep the lights on a little longer.

LANCE MEDOW: More often than not, fans want to assign responsibility for a loss to one player such as a quarterback or another star player. Football isn’t that simple. There are three facets to every team and the one that is often overlooked is special teams. Yet, that unit was once again put under the microscope in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. The Giants’ special teams surrendered a touchdown early in the second quarter when a punt bounced off Odell Beckham’s leg, and Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple failed to recover the ball. Later in the quarter, an Aldrick Rosas kickoff rolled out of bounds handing Carolina great field position at its own 40. The Panthers, ultimately, took advantage and converted that favorable bounce into a field goal. 

On top of that, the Giants had two penalties on special teams, including an offsides call against Kareem Martin which helped the Panthers extend a drive. A few plays later, Cam Newton was picked off by Curtis Riley but when you take into consideration all these developments on special teams, that’s still a 10-point swing and when you lose a game by two points, every play makes a huge difference. Remember, in Week 4 against the Saints, New Orleans muffed a punt and a kickoff yet recovered both and also extended a drive when it successfully converted a fake punt. Those plays also proved to be difference makers because the Saints wound up scoring two field goals and a game-sealing touchdown off those possessions. 

A week after surrendering 170 rushing yards to the Saints, I thought the Giants’ defense did a nice job keeping Christian McCaffrey and Newton in check on the ground as both combined for less than 90 yards. The Panthers entered Week 5 with the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL (166 yards per game) and the third-best mark in yards per carry (5.5). New York held Carolina to 118 total rushing yards and under four yards per carry. That should be considered a notable accomplishment but a handful of missed tackles came back to haunt the Giants in critical moments. As far as the offense goes, clearly there’s enough talent on that side of the ball to produce explosive plays and reach the end zone consistently. They just need to clean up penalties and negative plays, specifically runs, that contributed to their 0-for-7 performance on third down. Explosive plays and fourth-down conversions helped make up for that, but you can’t rely on that every game.

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