ReFo: Giants @ Panthers, Week 3
Only able to move the ball forward 20 yards by the time they found themselves down 31-0 in the middle of the third quarter, the Giants suffered through the embarrassing defeat that highlighted the team’s troubles.
Carolina rode – and built on — their 17-0 halftime lead with a steady attack that featured efficient passing, a churning ground game, and a defense that not only stood out where you would expect (in the front seven) but also in the patchwork backfield.
Here are a handful of performances from this one-sided affair that were worthy of note:
New York – Three Performances of Note
As a group, the New York offensive line has seen the season off to a slow start (to put it as mildly as I can). Their group Pass Blocking Efficiency of 66.2 is the league’s low mark and was dragged down significantly by their performance in Week 3 (48.6) with a total of 22 pressures allowed on 35 passing plays.
A week after holding his own against the Denver pass rush, rookie right tackle Justin Pugh fell off to grab a team-low -4.5 pass blocking grade, surrendering nine pressures (two sacks, two hits, and five hurries) in the process. His counterpart at left tackle, Will Beatty posted his second rough day of the young season and ended with a -2.5 (pass blocking),three sacks, and a pair of hurries on his tally. Right guard Chris Snee got in on the action as well, as his -2.2 grade was the third of three examples of the forgettable day for Giants’ pass protectors.
Eli Under Fire
Having shown the ability to overcome the shortcomings of his O-line’s pass blocking in the past, it would hard to blame an onlooker for being surprised at Eli Manning’s performance in this one. The simple fact is, though, that even for a QB skilled at dealing with pressure, the onslaught faced in this game was overwhelming.
Manning saw pressure on 45% (14 of 31) of his drop-backs, not a number far off of what he’s seen on the season as a whole (40.9%), but far more serious damage resulted. On those 14 plays, he took seven sacks, scrambled once, and got off six throws — one completed and one intercepted, for a passer rating of 0.0 and a PFF grade of -0.6. Adding to the troubles, the rest of his day didn’t balance things as he went 11-of-17 for 103 yards and a -1.8 grade on non-pressured attempts.
Return of Ross
If there was a positive to be found for the Giants this week, it would be in the play of cornerback Aaron Ross in his return to starting duty. Back with the Giants after his one-year hiatus in Jacksonville, Ross sat out Week 2 but logged 76 snaps against Carolina and made an impact. His +1.6 coverage grade led New York’s defense as a pair of passes defensed and an interception looked good enough on his record to see past the long fourth-quarter touchdown to Ted Ginn (that Ross may have expected safety help on) and a pair of first-half catches that moved the chains.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Dominant Day on the Edge
The left-right edge rush combo of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy was set quiet last week as neither managed a positive grade against Buffalo’s protection, but they revved up for Week 3 and more than made up for their week off.
While Hardy tuned-up Beatty, Johnson took to dismantling the rookie Pugh, beating him with an impressive and varied display of moves – Johnson logged pressures with speed around the outside edge, slashing inside efforts, and even a simple, overpowering bull rush. The 14 combined pressures the pair delivered set the tone for the day and pushed their season total to 28 — a number that has them sitting as the league’s No. 2 4-3 DE duo behind only Dallas’ tandem of Ware and Selvie (32).
Panther Ground Game
On a day where clock was in need of chewing, the Panthers salted things away with 46 runs and 194 yards via the run (30 for 128 in the second half) against a demoralized Giants defense. Of those yards, 103 came after contact and the Panthers put together 17 runs that resulted in first downs or touchdowns.
Cam Newton led the way, grade-wise, building his +1.4 run grade on seven attempts, five coming on option keepers and QB draws. Newton earned three of the team’s rushing first downs himself and tacked on a short touchdown in the middle of the third quarter. After leading quarterbacks in run grades in each of the past two seasons, this was Newton’s best-graded ground day so far in 2013 and he currently finds himself fourth in that category.
Possibly lost in the focus on Carolina’s front seven – that which is built upon star edge rushers and recent high-profile and high-performing rookies — their secondary was filled with unfamiliar faces on Sunday. Having lost nearly the entire starting unit to injuries, the Panthers were forced to piece together a group, shifting parts and inserting unknowns.
With Mike Mitchell moved to a deep safety role, two undrafted rookies seeing significant playing time, and Drayton Florence just added to the roster, it might have been reasonable to expect issues. Each member of the DB quintet (the four above plus Captain Munnerlyn), however, earned positive coverage grades and provided the backdrop for Carolina’s dominant defensive day.
– The two undrafted rookies in the Carolina defensive backfield, left corner Melvin White and safety Robert Lester, each brought home their first career interceptions.
– While Carolina’s defense notched 23 total pressures, the Giants managed just six.
– Panther kicker Graham Gano’s final kickoff of the day was his 15th of the year and the first that has not gone for a touchback.
PFF Game Ball
Tough to split them, but Charles Johnson edges out Greg Hardy and gets the game ball for his thorough thrashing of an overmatched rookie right tackle.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick