CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Nothing could have prepared the Giants' offensive line for what hit them shortly after the opening bell Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. It was like Mike Tyson going to Tokyo to face unknown Buster Douglas and getting the stuffing knocked out of him.
Like the Giants, Carolina entered the game 0-2. Its defense was tied for 24th in the NFL with three sacks. But in a span of 12 consecutive snaps in the Giants' first five possessions, the Panthers racked up six sacks of quarterback Eli Manning, tackled running back David Wilson for a 4-yard loss and got Wilson's 17-yard TD run called back by a holding penalty. They added a seventh sack for good measure in the third quarter.
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The result was a shocking 38-0 knockout that left the Giants on the ropes to start the season.
"It was one-on-one stuff," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They were beating us up front. They did a nice job of rushing the passer and playing the run on the way to the quarterback."
No one was more shell-shocked than left tackle Will Beatty, who gave up two sacks to Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy in the first two series. It was Beatty who was called for holding on Wilson's nullified TD run, and on the very next play, Beatty was beaten for Hardy's third sack.
After the game, Beatty met the media rush head on, blaming himself for the offensive breakdown. "For me, I know that first sack took up way too much of my thought," he said. "I should have let it go a lot earlier.
"Looking back on it, I see myself now like a snowball effect: 'You messed up. Bring it back. Why are you messing up again? Why are you? . . . Fix it, fix it now.' "
At that point, Beatty's voice cracked momentarily. "I'm looking at myself. I can't allow this game to say, 'Oh, this is the William Beatty that you're going up against.' "
Asked if the Giants' failure to generate a running game in their first two losses allowed the Panthers to ignore the run and tee off with a four-man pass rush, Beatty again pointed to himself.
"When we had that touchdown run by Wilson, there was a flag on me," Beatty said. "There was a great run play right there that was negated because of me."
Rookie right tackle Justin Pugh, the first-round draft pick, suggested the running game must improve dramatically. "We've got to establish the run game first and foremost, and that will help us so that we're not just sitting back there and throwing it 60 times a game," said Pugh, who was beaten for sacks by linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive end Charles Johnson. "It starts with me.
"In the past three games, we haven't run the ball well. So I don't think they're really threatened by it."
Soul-searching doesn't begin to describe the task facing the Giants' offensive line as they prepare for a tough Kansas City defense. "This has been a humbling day," Beatty said. "I never backed down from a challenge, and we have a challenge ahead of us."