Panthers deserve some credit, too

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
3:48
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Much of the national attention on Monday has been about how the New York Giants imploded in Sunday's 38-0 loss rather than how well the Carolina Panthers performed.

The Giants couldn't run block.

The Giants couldn't pass block.

The Giants collapsed.

Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks told WFAN Sports Radio the team he once played for showed no toughness or pride.

“They don’t like each other, they’re not willing to fight for each other,” Banks said. "When you have a premier quarterback in this league and you don't have enough self-respect -- not for him, but for yourself to protect him and do your job -- I think it speaks volumes."

[+] EnlargeCarolina Panthers defense
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonCarolina's defense, including Greg Hardy, left, and Luke Kuechly, smothered the Giants throughout Sunday's game.
Fox analyst and former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick said during the broadcast that "the body language, the mentality, the emotion of the game is just not there for the Giants."

Not much was said about the Carolina toughness and pride, body language and emotion.

In reality, what happened on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium fell somewhere between the Panthers played exceptionally well and the Giants didn't.

But to discount the total dominance Carolina (1-2) displayed would be a mistake.

Let's not forget this team in Week 1 was within a fourth-quarter fumble at the Seattle 8-yard line from beating the undefeated Seahawks, considered the best team in football at the moment.

That the Panthers appeared in disarray with coach Ron Rivera under fire after a last-second loss at Buffalo and the secondary riddled with injuries shouldn't cloud the picture.

The Panthers deserve some credit here, too.

"It's not fair," Rivera said. "You'd like to point at some of the things that happened in the game and say, 'Wow, we've been doing it since we started in the preseason.'

"You'd like to say, 'Hey, we deserve a little bit more attention.' But that's all right. Believe me, I've got no problem flying under the radar. To me, the more important thing is how our players feel about themselves. If [lack of respect] is going to fuel the fire a little more, great, let's do it."

Rivera is right. The Panthers, particularly their defense, played well during the preseason when they went first team versus first team. They created pressure and forced turnovers.

The front seven was stout in a 12-7 regular-season loss to Seattle.

It was exceptional against the Giants, collecting seven sacks -- three by defensive end Greg Hardy in the first half.

That the offense matched the intensity of the defense came as somewhat of a surprise based on the first two weeks, and a poor performance by the Giants might have had something to do with it.

But remember, the Giants trailed the high-powered Denver Broncos only 17-16 until late in the third quarter, so this team hasn't been a complete pushover.

It was only 7-0 in the second quarter on Sunday when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a horrible interception that almost was returned for a touchdown.

It wasn't, and Newton returned to lead Carolina to a field goal and four touchdowns on his next five possessions. That shouldn't be overlooked because the Giants couldn't stop him.

"That's showing growth," Rivera said. "I was so excited when he went back out there and did what he did."

Rivera had a lot to be excited about, particularly the way his team prepared and avoided coming out flat after an 0-2 start the way everyone insists the Giants did.

Will it be the turning point? Or will it be like last season, when Carolina lost five straight after improving to 1-1?

In all likelihood, the result will be somewhere in between.

"It can be the catalyst, most certainly," Rivera said. "You look for something that can be a hallmark game, the game that everybody points to as the one that really got things rolling.

"But it would be ineffective if we don't do what we need to do next week."

The Panthers are off this week, then return for an Oct. 6 game at Arizona. That's Rivera's focus, not what's being said nationally. That's the only approach he can take.

"To me, the most important thing is how we feel about ourselves and how we do things from here on out," he said. "I do think again, this could be a catalyst. This has to be something we build on. We also have to be realistic. We have not arrived where we need to be by any stretch of the imagination."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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