Now this is a 'Kudos & Wet Willies' the way I like it. Lots of 'Kudos' and only a couple of 'Wet Willies.' Let's get right to it.
Kudos to ...
Defensive Line: A great job throughout the first three quarters controlling the Carolina running game, then lots of pressure on quarterback Matt Moore once Perry Fewell turned them loose. Let's mention a few guys individually.
- Justin Tuck: Four tackles, including a couple of run stops coming down the line to make the play, and several quarterback pressures.
- Mathias Kiwanuka: Lined up all over the place -- defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker in the 'heavy' package designed to stop the run. He rushed the passer, dropped into coverage, made run stops as a lineman and linebacker. He did it all. Kiwanuka ended up with two sacks, four tackles and a forced fumble.
- Osi Umenyiora: He started, which I'm sure made him feel good, then went out and justified the decision. He played the run as well as I can remember seeing in a long time, recording five tackles. He also had a sack, aforced fumble and a handful of quarterback pressures. For me, that's better than he played at any time in 2009.
Chris Canty: Can the 6-foot-7 Canty play defensive tackle? Sure looked like it Sunday. He was a force in the middle, and at defensive end in the heavy package. Six tackles, a half-sack and lots of stout work against the run. The big man is healthy, and if he keeps playing like that no one will be questioning how much money the Giants are paying him.
- Barry Cofield: Four tackles, and split a sack with Canty. Seems like he spent most of the day in the Carolina backfield.
Terrell Thomas: Did get beat by Carolina's Steve Smith for a touchdown, but it took an incredible throw from Moore to get that done. Had a pick, and four tackles.
Deon Grant: Love the fact that the veteran safety did not pout about losing his job to Phillips. When he got on the field, he made a huge play, picking off a floating Moore pass to save what looked like it would be seven Carolina points.
Eli Manning: Forget the three picks. None of those were his fault even if you want to argue that the one to Ramses Barden was too high. When you're 6-foot-6 and you can get both hands on a high throw without jumping, that's a ball that has to be caught if you're an NFL receiver. Without the six drops by the Giants, Eli would have been 26-for-30 for well over 300 yards with zero interceptions. He was fabulous, I don't care what the overall numbers show.
Hakeem Nicks: Four catches, three for touchdowns. Are we going to have to start calling him 'Touchdown Maker'? A couple of beautiful grabs, though he did miss one he should have had that resulted in an interception.
Perry Fewell: An impressive debut for the Giants new defensive coordinator. The Giants obviously game-planned to stop the run, and allowed Carolina's vaunted rushing attack just 89 yards on 24 carries (3.7 yards per attempt). Then, late in the game Fewell turned the defensive line and the blitzers loose on Moore, and the Giants ended up with four sacks. Loved the multiple fronts, with players moving all across the line. Mathias Kiwanuka played defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker. At times, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck played side-by-side. Chris Canty played some defensive end. Lots of alignments, lots of variations. Best of all, big plays and turnovers when they were needed. The Giants defense faced a short field the entire first half, and only surrendering 16 points was actually great work.
Kevin Gilbride: Love him or hate him, I think this week you have to give it up for the Giants offensive coordinator. The Giants dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 34:39. Without a true tight end, and after rushing for negative yardage in the first half, Gilbride dug a little deeper into the playbook and found ways to help the Giants get a ground game going. Good work from KG making some adjustments on the fly, something he is often criticized for being unable to do.
Mario Manningham: Four catches for 84 yards, including one for 31 yards. I was most impressed, however, by the communication that seems to be developing between Manningham and Manning, which was especially in evidence on the long third-down completion down the right sideline in the first half.
Red Zone Defense/Green Zone Offense: Three turnovers created by the defense in the Red Zone, three touchdowns scored by the offense in the Green Zone. Can't say that long-term problem has been cured after one game, but that sure was nice to see.
Wet Willies to ...
Matt Dodge: Pitiful. Two horrible punts, and one that was blocked. The blocked punt was the fault of the protection, but still an awful debut for the rookie punter. Memo to any veteran punter looking for a job -- if you don't have your agent call Giants GM Jerry Reese ASAP you are foolish.
Kickoff Coverage: Worse than Dodge's punting. What 'clean' word can I use to describe it? How about 'friggin' awful,' which is as close as I will come to dropping an F bomb. The awful coverage probably helped Carolina to at least 10 of its first-half points. It was better in the second half, but still not good enough.
Travis Beckum: Maybe this is unfair since the second-year tight end was asked to do much more than expected, but it was easy to see why the Giants really don't want to use Beckum on the line of scrimmage. He got pushed into the backfield a number of times, and the primary run game adjustment the Giants made in the second half was to do pretty much everything possible to run away from wherever he was lined up. With Kevin Boss suffering a concussion and a neck injury in the first series Sunday, I will be stunned if the Giants don't quickly sign Bear Pascoe to the active roster.
Tom Quinn: I asked it during the offseason, but how does the Giants special teams coach still have a job? The Giants could not cover kickoffs or punts last season, and they still can't now. We saw an awful offsides on a kickoff, a miscommunication in punt blocking that led to a blocked kick, horrible work by Dodge, D.J. Ware get in Darius Heyward's way on a kickoff and muff a ball he had no business trying to catch. Sorry, but a lot of that is on Quinn. I can't believe the Giants saw fit to keep him, and it is a decision that is obviously hurting them.
Ramses Barden: I know he only had one ball thrown in his direction, but ... when you are 6-foot-6 and your role on the team is make catches across the middle to move the chains you have to catch that ball, not bat it up in the air and cost your quarterback an interception. Keep that up, and Ramses will be in street clothes on Sundays watching Victor Cruz play.
Kwillies to ...
I have to give out a couple of these. By very loose definition, a 'kwillie' goes to those who contributed for both teams.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Nice running with 20 carries for 76 yards, including a 39-yard run that was longer than any running play the Giants had in 2009. But, a bad drop that turned into an interception, and a fumble when the Giants were simply trying to run out the clock. Can't have those.
Offensive Line: This was a real mixed bag. Outstanding pass protection for Manning most of the day as he was sacked just once and often had loads of time to survey his options. Pretty awful run blocking for the most part, though. Absolute nothing available on the left side behind David Diehl and Rich Seubert. Brandon Jacobs 22-yard run to that side was simply a great play call by KG that caught the Panthers off-guard. A terrible job by Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee on the fourth-and-inches play where Eli barely made the first down. The Giants had a little second-half success running behind Snee and Kareem McKenzie, but a lot of what Bradshaw got he did on his own.