CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Going into Sunday's game, things looked bright for Eli Manning and the New York Giants' passing game. The Carolina Panthers were playing without their two starting safeties and one of their starting cornerbacks because of injury. Universally, fantasy football analysts were advising you to start your Giants, because big numbers were in store.
Not what happened.
Manning finished the game 12-for 23 for 119 yards, his lowest yardage total since a Dec. 28, 2008 game in Minnesota in which he had 119 in the first half and didn't play in he second. He threw no touchdowns, but you already knew that if you saw the 38-0 final score. He completed three passes for 25 yards to Victor Cruz and no passes at all to Hakeem Nicks, who was targeted only once in the game -- late in the fourth quarter after it had been decided.
What went wrong? Well, if you think of the Giants' passing game as a fancy sports car, they couldn't get it out of the garage Sunday. The Panthers delivered consistent, crushing pressure with their four defensive linemen, sacking Manning seven times in the game and six times in the first 17 minutes. As the Giants teams that have won the franchise's two most recent Super Bowls can tell you, that kind of pressure with only four guys is a pretty significant help to any secondary, no matter how banged up.
"When you can drop seven guys and rush four and get pressure, it's going to make it hard for any offense to have a successful passing game," Manning said. "They were able to accomplish that."
Manning isn't the kind of quarterback who's going to sell out his offensive line after a terrible game. But he is the kind of level-headed team leader who's not afraid to deliver a team-wide message that things need to improve. The Giants are 0-3 for the first time since 1996, and in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. One of the main reasons is that they haven't played well enough on the offensive line. While that manifested itself through a disappointing running game in the first two weeks, it was the pass protection that really stunk Sunday.
"We have to find ways of slowing down the pass rush, whether that's running the ball, with screens or getting the ball out quicker," Manning said. "They won the physical battle today."