By Larry Fine
“There is still a positive energy around this team and we feel we can straighten it out and start playing real good football real soon.”
His Carolina counterpart sounded a similar note of optimism.
“We’re not going to dwell on the negatives,” Cam Newton told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. “I feel our team is right on the brink. With just a couple more plays in the games, it’s easy for us to be 2-0.”
All is not yet lost despite the odds against them.
Since the NFL expanded its playoff format to 12 teams in 1990, only 22 of the 276 teams that started a season 0-2 have reached the playoffs.
There have been some notable exceptions, including the 2007 Giants, who recovered from a slow start to finish 10-6 and then registered three successive road playoff wins before upsetting the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Starting 0-3 is, of course, grimmer. In the same time period only three teams have lost their opening three and made the playoffs, and none of them in the last 14 seasons.
New York and Carolina are joined in their moment of desperation by six other winless teams heading into Week Three: the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Giants have to overcome a sloppy start, having committed 10 turnovers in losses to the Cowboys and Broncos.
“Their offensive team is sixth in rushing. They only had seven penalties, two fumbles and an interception in their first two games, so they’re a solid football team.”
Mistakes have been the thing that has killed the Giants, who last year beat the Panthers 36-7.
“We can fix a lot by hanging on to the ball. A lot of what we can accomplish for ourselves would be to be able to take better care of the ball,” said Coughlin.
New York’s air attack has averaged more than 390 yards a game to lead the league, but the Giants have struggled on the ground.
“You have to communicate well, you have to recognize in split seconds, you have to be physical enough to reject the fronts and the linebackers as they attack the line of scrimmage.
“You have to knock a hole in the defensive front. You have to break an arm tackle, which very few have,” said Coughlin.
“So you have a lot of things. You’ve got to block down field. Your receivers have got to get their faces in front of somebody down field, push toward the opponent’s goal line.”