New York Giants: Ron Rivera

We conclude this week's grim series of 2013 New York Giants recollection with a capper that was less a "moment" than it was a terrifying avalanche that buried a season.

No. 1 -- Sacked (and sacked, and sacked, and sacked, and sacked, and sacked) in Carolina

On the morning of Sept. 22, the 0-2 Giants arrived at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., for a game against the 0-2 Carolina Panthers. It was being billed as a "must-win" game for both teams, though maybe moreso for Carolina. There was talk that a loss could lead the Panthers to fire coach Ron Rivera as early as the next day. And while there was no such intrigue regarding Tom Coughlin, the Giants had been beaten up by the Cowboys and Broncos in their first two games and were hoping an old, familiar punching bag could help them get back on track.

Uh... not so much.

A Panthers' defense that turns out to have been one of the very best in the NFL sacked Eli Manning six times in the first 17 minutes of the game, setting a tone for a 38-0 Carolina whitewash that represents the worst loss of Coughlin's career with the Giants. This was the bottoming-out for an offensive line that would bear the bulk of the responsibility for the Giants' issues on offense all year, as the injuries David Baas and Chris Snee suffered in the game would force the team to try and fix its already significant pass-protection problems with unqualified backups. It was also a low point for the Giants' defense, which hadn't yet acquired Jon Beason from Carolina and allowed 120 rushing yards to DeAngelo Williams and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) to Cam Newton.

This was the game in which Hakeem Nicks was targeted only once, very late, and caught no passes, after which he got in a little bit of hot water for joking, "I can't throw it to myself." The Giants had 90 passing yards and 60 rushing yards for the game, turned the ball over three times and committed six penalties. Other than the shocking absence of a special-teams touchdown by the opponent (something that happened in every other game they played in September), this game showcased pretty much all of the problems that would doom the Giants' season.

That morning of Sept. 22, two 0-2 teams met on the field in Carolina. From that point forward, the Panthers went 12-2 and secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Giants would lose four more games before winning their first, and ended up 7-9 and out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. At kickoff that day, the two teams seemed to be in similar plights. But by the time the game ended, it was clear that the Giants were the team in much more trouble.

Did Blackburn's intel help sink Giants?

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
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Yeah, they're feeling pretty good about themselves down there in Charlotte, N.C., after the Carolina Panthers' 38-0 drubbing of the New York Giants this past Sunday. This latest is all about how former Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, now with the Panthers, helped the Carolina game plan with his inside knowledge of the Giants' offense. Per the Charlotte Observer:
Blackburn
“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.”

...

“This was one of those things when you have a guy who knows the other team and you sit there and you listen to him when he is watching tape, before the play even happens, he calls the play out,” Rivera said. “You go, ‘He has a grasp of it.’ We saw it in practice. He was focused, he was excited and he brought a lot of energy.”

Hey, I have little doubt that Blackburn, who'll always retain a special place in Giants history for his Super Bowl interception of Tom Brady two seasons ago, was able to offer help due to his experience in New York. But let's not go overboard here. This kind of thing happens all the time around the league, and you tend to hear more about it when the team wins 38-0 than when they don't. After the Giants lost their season opener in Dallas, for example, you didn't hear anyone in their locker room talking about how big a help it was that Dan Connor had played for the Cowboys last year.

Blackburn has played a total of 17 defensive snaps for Carolina so far -- all 17 in Sunday's game. So my thought here is that it's a good bit of coaching by Ron Rivera to single him out for a contribution to the team's first victory of the year. And I'm sure he had something to do with it. It's just hard to believe that Blackburn's inside info was worth 38 points, is all.

Big Blue Morning: Uh-oh-and-three

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
8:00
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: The Giants have started a season 0-3 for the first time since 1996, and they did so with their worst loss of the Tom Coughlin era -- a 38-0 humiliation at the hands of the previously 0-2 Panthers in Carolina. NFL history under the current playoff format gives the Giants less than a 1 percent chance of reaching the postseason at this point, and that doesn't even take into account that their next three games will come in a 12-day stretch from Sept. 29 to Oct. 10 and include two road games against teams (Kansas City and Chicago) that haven't lost yet. They are in a serious hole, and their chances of climbing out of it are preposterously slim. Even if Sunday's seven-sacks-allowed game was a rock-bottom performance, as it very well may have been, there may be too many deep-seated problems to overcome before these Giants can even get back to respectability. They have been outscored by a combined total of 61 points in their three games. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (minus-64) have a worse scoring differential so far.

Behind enemy lines: The Panthers may have saved their coach's job with the big win over the Giants on Sunday, and Ron Rivera can thank a defense that stifled Eli Manning and the Giants from the start. Carolina safety Robert Lester, who was on the University of Alabama's 2011 national championship team, compared Sunday's defensive effort to that season's 21-0 title-game victory over LSU, in which the Crimson Tide allowed 92 yards of offense and only five first downs. The Giants had 150 yards and 10 first downs, so he's not that far off.

Around the division: The Redskins lost as well, and they're 0-3 too. It's the first time in NFL history -- for which the Giants and the Redskins have been around since basically the beginning -- that both of these teams have started a season 0-3. Robert Griffin III isn't getting much help from his teammates as he works to shake off obvious rust. With the Eagles 1-2 after Thursday's loss to the Chiefs, the division looks like a mess except for the first-place Cowboys, whose only loss is by a point on the road in Kansas City and who walloped the Rams on Sunday to improve to 2-1.

Around the league: If you read me regularly, you know where I come down on the issue of drunken driving as a problem that society at large and the NFL specifically fails to take seriously enough. I don't think it's right that the 49ers' Aldon Smith got to play Sunday. And after the game was over, it appears the 49ers felt kind of the same way. Here's hoping this extremely talented young man gets whatever help he needs and that his story helps convince at least one (and hopefully many more) people to just call a cab.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: The Giants' pass defense doesn't need a fresh challenge a week after failing to sack Peyton Manning, but Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers presents one anyway as a quarterback who can beat them with his legs as well as his arm. The Giants say they've been prepping for running quarterbacks all offseason. Of some concern is the fact that cornerback Corey Webster missed practice Thursday with a hip injury. We'll certainly monitor that today, though it's not unusual for Webster to miss a day of practice here or there. He generally doesn't miss games.

Behind enemy lines: An 0-2 start for the Giants is upsetting, and their first 0-3 start since 1996 would be considerably more so. But sometimes it's easy to forget what these things mean elsewhere. Tom Coughlin's going to coach the Giants for as long as he wants to coach them. Ron Rivera, the Panthers' coach, may need to win a game soon if he wants to keep his job.

Around the division: Following the Eagles' utterly heinous six-turnover loss to the Chiefs on Thursday night, the combined record of the NFC East is now 2-7, including an 0-2 mark against the Chiefs. The whole Eagles thing sure did look fun in Week 1 when the Redskins showed up apparently without having watched tape of one single Oregon play from the past six years. But a fun new scheme can only go as far as your personnel can take it. And we've not met the scheme yet that can succeed if you turn it over six times.

Around the league: Giants fans were hoping last week that the team might sign former Broncos running back Willis McGahee, who was in for a workout. They signed Brandon Jacobs instead. McGahee hooked on Thursday with the Browns, who'd just traded Trent Richardson to the Colts the day before. So I guess Giants fans will get to find out what they missed, though I have to believe McGahee is nothing more than a stopgap body for a depleted run game in Cleveland. If he'd shown anything exciting as a ballcarrier, he surely could have made this year's Giants.

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