THE AFTERMATH:

For the Giants, the 2005 season is over. It collapsed on their own field when the Carolina Panthers shut them down and out, 23-0, in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Now it's wait until next year, and while next year is building, it's time to shore up a few areas, define a few others and get rid of a few trouble spots.

The team is going to need defensive help, at linebacker and in the secondary. The three linebackers who started the season -- Nick Greisen, Carlos Emmons and Antonio Pierce -- were diluted down to Greisen, and he had to deal with almost constant change. Most hurtful was the loss for most of the second half of the season of the first replacement, strong-side backer Reggie Torbor.

The three who started in this playoff game were Alonzo Jackson, Kevin Lewis and Greisen. Not acceptable.

Left corner Will Allen has become a liability; so, too, has right corner Curtis Deloatch. Rookie corner Corey Webster might make it but he wasn't up to the task against Carolina. Free safety Brent Alexander says he is considering retirement, and it is possible that the Giants wouldn't dispute that.

There is a need for another wide receiver to slowly replace veteran Amani Toomer, a left tackle to move in for veteran Luke Petitgout and simply more learning and seasoning for quarterback Eli Manning.

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

First of all, the Giants won more games (11) than they did in the last two seasons combined. That was a positive. Eli Manning was the quarterback for all those games, and the experience that he gained was invaluable.

Running back Tiki Barber had his best season in nine, gaining 1,860 yards to finish second in the NFL race to Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who had 1,880. The offense seems to be ready to roll again next season with a few tune-ups on the line and with more use of rookie Brandon Jacobs (6-4, 265) to give Tiki some rest and to soften the middle of defenses.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey and wideout Plaxico Burress were strong and productive. Veteran slot receiver Amani Toomer had a solid season but is approaching that time when a replacement should be groomed. He will be in his 11th season.

The Giants seemed to find jewels in their defense, such as end Osi Umenyiora (14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl spot), middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, signed as a free agent from Pittsburgh, and strong safety Gibril Wilson, just a second-year player.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

There just wasn't enough experience for Manning to rely on, and he was nervous and jittery in his playoff debut. The situation at left tackle, where Petitgout was more than just erratic, should be addressed. If the Giants don't go for a linebacker or a corner in the draft, it figures to be an offensive tackle.

The defense was strong when everybody was healthy, meaning that there was little or no depth. Some must be found, perhaps more than some. Free-agent rookie Chase Blackburn showed strong tendencies as a middle linebacker when Pierce went down, but then he was hurt and missed the final two games and the single playoff event.

In the end, what went wrong was a lack of cohesion on defense, a lack of experience at quarterback and a less than cohesive offensive line. All of that is capable of being fixed, of course; the off-season should provide the time to do it.

REPLAY

The Giants were out-smarted and out-coached from the beginning, and seeing as how they were playing with patch-quilt linebackers and secondary, it wasn't long before Carolina simply pounded them into submission.

DeShaun Foster blasted away for 151 yards and the Panthers ran for 223 total yards as the Giants apparently forgot how to tackle. They were making the stops up front, but the linebackers were incapable of cleaning up. The late George Young, Giants' general manager from 1979 through 1994, once described linebackers as, "the vacuum cleaners of the defense."

No vacuuming was done in this game, nor was star wideout Steve Smith covered very well as he caught 10 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. The Giants' offense was restricted to 132 total net yards, nine first downs and a time of possession number of 17 minutes, 15 seconds.

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