Panic not about to set in on the Giants

Little Orphan Annie was wrong.

The sun did not come out "tomorrow" for the New York Giants when they woke up with a groggy hangover on Thursday morning after experiencing a humiliating 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday night.

The defending Super Bowl champion Giants laid an egg in the stand-alone NFL opener at MetLife Stadium, and judging by fans' comments following the game in the wee morning hours on Thursday, people were ready to line up and take turns jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Dallas No. 3 receiver Kevin Ogletree looked like the second coming of Jerry Rice against an injury- plagued Giants secondary.

Without bruising back Brandon Jacobs, who left via free agency, Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants ' lightning back, barely made a rumble while rookie first-round draft pick David Wilson made a critical fumble, putting him in the Tom Coughlin doghouse for the rest of the night.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz, the hero of the 2011 season that culminated in a Super Bowl win, had four drops — three of them at critical times — and committed a block in the back penalty to wipe out a first-down gain.

Woe is us, went the comments from the fans on WFAN 660 AM.

The Giants' loss on opening night served as a rallying cry for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. The NFC East's returning champ is now not only 0-1, but 0-1 in the division, and woe is us in the secondary after Tony Romo torched the Giants for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Instead of looking like returning Super Bowl champions, the Giants looked like a MASH unit with starting cornerback Prince Amukamara missing the game with a foot injury, replacement Michael Coe knocked from the game with a hamstring injury, linebacker Michael Boley knocked out of the game with a hamstring injury following an interception after he was horse-collar tackled, and linebacker Keith Rivers in and out of the game with a hamstring problem. And cornerback Corey Webster, usually a stalwart, looked silly on defense against Romo's two touchdown passes to Ogletree.

"We had some holes in our defense and [Romo] took advantage of them," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "They had some big plays on us, especially in the second half."

The Giants started slow and never caught up to the determined Cowboys, who are 5-0 all-time in season openers against the Giants, who became the first returning Super Bowls champions to lose a season opener since Denver in 1999.

Even though it's early in the season, things need to change, and that was evident in the post-game press conference when Coughlin talked about "no more blowing smoke up their rear ends."

An early-season loss might not be so bad, however. The Giants did lose to Washington in the 2011 season opener but went on to win the Super Bowl. The loss to the Cowboys highlighted the Giants' injury concerns in the secondary, allowing Romo too much time to find receivers.

"I think we could have played a little bit harder," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul admitted. "We could have come out in the first half and drove to the ball and did what we had to do. We definitely have some work to do and we are going to get it done. We are never satisfied."

The Giants ran two negative-yardage running plays after getting first-and-goal at the 1 following Boley's interception.

"When you are that close, you have to score," Giants center David Baas said. "We can do better and we have to do better. It was kind of sloppy … We didn't execute well enough, that is the clear point."

What is also clear is that the season-opening loss must not be a scene-setter for 2012. While it is early in the season, a blown game at any time of the year can cost at season's end.

"We made a lot of mistakes, physical mistakes, that we need to improve on, and you'd rather have those," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said.

"When guys are making mental mistakes and doing the wrong things, I think that's harder to correct. With physical mistakes, sometimes you just have a bad day. That will be correctable and something we can work on."

There are 15 games left in the regular season. The Giants may not have awoken to sunshine on Thursday morning, but no one is pushing a panic button just yet.

gary.blockus@mcall.com

610-820-6782

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