EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** – The Giants might not be in unexplored territory, but they certainly are in a strange place they've avoided for a long time and hope to leave as soon as possible.
Perhaps the most jarring aspect of their 0-2 start is their inability to run the ball or take care of it, two tenets of football Tom Coughlin has long emphasized. The Giants' coach strives for a balanced offense fronted with a strong rushing attack and not hurting his team's cause by giving away the football. But as they prepare to play the 0-2 Panthers Sunday in Charlotte, the Giants are last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (36.5) and per carry (2.2) and in turnover differential (minus-8).
The Giants can throw the ball. Their 781 net passing yards are the most by the Giants through the first two games of a season. The old mark of 697 yards was set last year. Eli Manning's 812 passing yards represent the highest two-game total of his 10-year career.
But the Giants clearly need to be more productive on the ground. They usually are. In Coughlin's first five seasons as head coach (2004-2008) they were always ranked 11th or higher in rushing yards and led the NFL in 2008 with 157.4 yards a game. They slipped to 89.2 yards per game and last in the league in 2011 (which didn't prevent them from winning the Super Bowl), but rebounded to 116.4 yards a game and 14th in the NFL in 2012.
This season, however, they ran for 50 yards in the opener in Dallas and just 23 yards in a loss Sunday to Denver, their lowest total in 24 years. It was the lowest rushing output ever for a Coughlin-coached team; the previous low was 25 yards, in the Giants' loss at Jacksonville on Nov. 20, 2006. The Giants did not have a run longer than six yards, the first time that happened since Sept. 12, 1999, when their longest run was five yards in a victory at Tampa Bay.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 73 rushing yards are the fewest the Giants have ever had through the first two games of a season. The last time they had so few rushing yards in any two-game span was Nov. 21-28, 1954, when they ran for 70 yards in losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland.
The Giants last rushed for no more than 50 yards in back-to-back games on Oct. 2-10, 1994, when they ran for 50 and 37 yards in losses to New Orleans and Minnesota.
The lack of production from the rushing attack might not in itself doom them to defeat, but it is harder to overcome because of the turnovers. The Giants have 10 of them (seven interceptions), six against Dallas and four vs. Denver, and only two takeaways.
Ten turnovers is their highest total in the first two games of a season and the most they've committed in any two-game span since Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 1989, when they had five apiece in back-to-back losses to San Francisco and Philadelphia.
The last time the Giants threw seven interceptions in a two-game span was Oct. 5-12, 2003, when Kerry Collins threw three against Miami and four vs. New England – both defeats.
- Denver's Knowshon Moreno scored on touchdown runs of 20 and 25 yards Sunday against the Giants. He was the first opposing running back to score on two runs of 20-plus yards since Nov. 23, 1969, when Cleveland's Leroy Kelly had touchdown runs of 23 and 30 yards in Municipal Stadium. Each of those touchdowns was in the first quarter. Kelly added a one-yard run in the second quarter to give the Browns a 21-0 lead in a game they went on to win, 28-17. He rushed for 124 yards on 18 carries.
Moreno was the first Giants opponent with at least two rushing touchdowns in a game since Arizona's Beanie Wells ran for three scores on Oct. 2, 2011
- The Giants' first offensive play against Denver was a 51-yard pass from Manning to Victor Cruz. The Pro Bowl receiver has caught more long passes than any NFL receiver since becoming a fulltime player at the start of the 2011 season:
- Cruz had 118 receiving yards in each of the Giants' first two games. Since the start of the 2011 season, he has 14 100-yard games. That ties him with Chicago's Brandon Marshall for second in the NFL during that span, behind only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (20).
- Manning's 362 passing yards Sunday increased his career total to 32,339 and vaulted him past Mark Brunell and Sonny Jurgensen and into 30th place on the NFL's career list. Manning needs only six yards to pass former teammate Kurt Warner.
- The Giants had 28 first downs on Sunday, their highest total in a loss since Nov. 28, 2011, when they had 29 first downs at New Orleans.
- The loss to Denver dropped the Giants' record in home openers to 48-37-4. They are 49-35-5 in road openers.
- When they visit the Panthers on Sunday, it will be the first time both the Giants and their opponents bring matching 0-2 records into a game since Oct. 2, 1972 at Philadelphia. The Giants won, 27-12, the first victory in a four-game winning streak.