CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jordan Gross expected the Carolina Panthers to get off to a fast start against the New York Giants and build off the momentum from last week's win against a divisional rival.
Instead, the tackle was shocked by the way the Panthers' offense struggled in a 36-7 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champions on Thursday night.
"You've got all weekend to sit and think about what went wrong," Gross said. "Coach (Ron) Rivera said it's not time to push the panic button, but we can't let this happen. We can't be so up and down — two weeks down and one week up, so far."
The Panthers entered the season figuring offense wouldn't be a big concern with reigning AP offensive rookie of the year Cam Newton, top wideout Steve Smith, and a strong running game. Yet Carolina struggled in an opening loss against Tampa Bay, bounced back with a keep-the-chains-moving performance in a win against New Orleans last weekend, then regressed again on a night filled with stalled drives against the Giants.
The Panthers trailed 20-0 after a first half in which they failed to drive past the Giants 39-yard line — and that drive ended with one of Newton's three interceptions on a ball that bounced off the outstretched arm of receiver Brandon LaFell. Their only touchdown came on a leaping 1-yard keeper from Newton in the third quarter, but Newton's final throw was an interception in the end zone midway through the fourth.
"The way we played last week, I thought it was going to lead to something," LaFell said. "It didn't."
For the Giants, first-time starter Andre Brown ran for a career-high 113 yards and two touchdowns, and Eli Manning threw for 288 yards and a score.
Four days after rallying from 14 points down to beat Tampa Bay, the Giants dominated the first half, scoring on their first four possessions to build the 20-0 lead.
The Giants (2-1) were without three starters but it hardly mattered.
Brown got the start in place of Ahmad Bradshaw, who sat out with a neck injury. Ramses Barden caught nine passes for a career-high 138 yards in his first NFL start in place of Hakeem Nicks.