AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning didn’t come out and say the New York Giants are facing a must-win game heading into the third week.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP came close though, and he wasn’t the only Giant concerned after losing the first two games of the regular season, including a 41-23 loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Manning Bowl III on Sunday.
A lot of teammates were worried and with good reason heading into this weekend’s game against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
The last time an NFL team made the playoffs after starting 0-2 was in 2008, when Miami, Minnesota and San Diego overcame consecutive losses to start the season, yet made the playoffs.
In the last four seasons, though, 0-2 has been the kiss of death.
"In this situation, you’ve got to have a little sense of urgency," Manning said. "I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If you make it a must-win, sometimes that’s what you need to be put in those situations. It is a big game. We’re 0-2 right now. We’re looking for our first win. Guys just have to keep their heads up and look at the good things and look at where we’ve got to make improvements."
The Giants have a lot of problems. They have turned the ball over 10 times, with Manning throwing seven interceptions. The run game has been limited to 73 yards total and opponents have scored 77 points, with many being set up by turnovers. While the defense has been OK, it fell asleep on two rushing touchdowns on Sunday and the line has not had much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Even the special teams has been shaky. Steve Weatherford punted poorly on Sunday and Denver’s Trindon Holliday returned one 81 yards for a touchdown.
"You get a fire lit under you every now and then and I think now is one time we have a fire lit under us," middle linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "There is a sense of urgency, and I think one of the big things in football is that you never want to lose two games in a row. That’s something that obviously happened to us and we want to end that.
We want to get in the winning habit. This is a new team, our 2013 team, we haven’t had that yet and that’s what we’re working for."
Outspoken safety Antrel Rolle sounded a little worried on Monday. He has seen an inexplicable lack of excitement on the bench in the losses to Dallas and Denver and he knows that has to change.
"It’s not the first time I’ve seen that, I’ve seen that year one, year two, and year three and there’s also been times where we turn it on," said Rolle, elected a captain this season. "I don’t know where the lack of emotion comes from, especially during the course of a game. This is something you love to do, this is something you should have passion about doing and the one thing I say, you can always control your effort and you can control how you approach the game. "
The Giants, if nothing else, have players who have overcome 0-2 starts before. But defensive end Justin Tuck doesn’t want that to be a crutch this season.
"I can understand people outside this locker room saying they’ve got a lot of things to fix. It really isn’t," Tuck said. "That’s the frustrating thing about it. If we weren’t a good football team, I wouldn’t be talking like I am. I would be saying, you know what? We’re not good. But we are good. I feel like we have just as good a football team as we’ve ever had here. Things aren’t going our way right now. No one said it was going to be easy."
Receiver Victor Cruz believes the Giants are better than their record but that doesn’t change the record.
"I think we’re a team that’s right on the brink, we’re right on the cusp of making a big game, having a statement game and taking it from there," he said. "Once we get that first win I feel like we can roll from there.
"But it’s about getting that first win, it’s about settling down, and hopefully that time is this week."
NOTES: After meeting with the team, Coughlin was unavailable for his Monday press conference because of an undisclosed family issue. ... The Panthers lost in Buffalo Sunday, and are also 0-2.
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