New York Giants fans know that they should not be fooled by their team's slow starts under coach Tom Coughlin. Big Blue has lost its first game each of the past three years, and in 2007, when the Giants went on to upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl, New York started 0-2.
But this year is different.
At 0-3, the Giants are off to their worst start since 1996. The defense has surrendered at least 36 points in each of the team's first three games, and the offense has struggled to match its high-scoring opponents. On Sunday, New York put in one of its worst performances in recent memory, getting shut out by the Carolina Panthers, 38-0. It was the worst loss in Coughlin's 10-year tenure with the team.
After the game star receiver Victor Cruz said "everything went wrong" for the Giants, and in an interview Tuesday he spoke passionately about the team's struggles.
"We play this game to win, and nothing else," Cruz told ThePostGame. "That's what we want to do, and now being 0-3 there's nothing fun about that. We have to come into this practice, come into this work week ready to go and be focused on getting this victory."
There are significant problems on both sides of the ball for New York, most notably a porous offensive line and a weak front seven. The Giants have surrendered 11 sacks through three games, with seven of those coming to the Panthers. The defense is allowing 129.3 rushing yards per game and giving up a league-worst average of 38.3.
Coughlin has taken much of the heat for the slow start, and his job may be in jeopardy if the Giants can't turn things around. Through it all, the 67-year-old coach has has preached a message of togetherness to his team.
"The one thing that I did stress with our team following the game is what we really needed to do at this point in time is make sure that we stick together," Coughlin told the media this week. "That we stay together ... that we are one, that we don't finger point, we don't blame anybody."
Cruz echoed that message. The 26-year-old, who signed a $45.879 million contract extension during the offseason, got off to a hot start when he scored three touchdowns and managed 118 receiving yards in New York's season-opener against Dallas. He matched those receiving yards in the Giants' second game against Denver, but in Carolina, quarterback Eli Manning struggled to find him, and Cruz finished with just three receptions for a total of 25 yards.
The schedule does not get any easier for Cruz and the Giants. Next up is undefeated Kansas City, a team surrendering just 185 passing yards per game. Only four squads have stingier pass defenses.
Even if the Giants were to pull off a win Sunday, the odds are still long to qualify for the postseason. Since 1978, only five of the 161 teams that started 0-3 ended up making the playoffs.
But for now, Cruz says, the Giants can't let their struggles affect them.
"The message is stay together," Cruz said. "Whether you lose 21-20 or 38-0, in our case, it’s still a loss. We just have to stick together, and I think we can get our backs off this wall and get ourselves a victory and just go upward from there."