EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Frankie Luvu departed MetLife Stadium after arguably his best game as a pro, totaling a career-high 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, and a pass deflection.
But there was nothing to celebrate.
Despite the statistical and overall improvement from a Week 1 loss to the Browns, Luvu couldn't shake the frustration from the missed opportunities in the Panthers' 19-16 loss to the Giants on Sunday.
For Luvu individually, there was one particular sore spot. Just before halftime, he had a golden opportunity to pick off quarterback Daniel Jones, but Luvu couldn't hang onto a momentum-changing interception.
"(I) could've gotten some points on the board before we went into halftime," he said. "The opportunity was there, and I just didn't make the most of it."
Luvu's near-pick in Carolina's second loss of the season illustrated one of the larger issues in the Panthers' defensive performance through the first two games.
They haven't yet forced a turnover. They also struggled to keep the Giants from converting on third down in the second half, when they went 5-of-11 on third down while the Panthers were going 0-for-5 in the same category.
In the first half, Carolina did keep New York from capitalizing on its opportunities. The Giants' two early fumble recoveries resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns. And the Giants headed into halftime with 60 net offensive yards, but none rushing, a big bounce back after allowing the Browns to run for
Panthers defensive end Brian Burns, who sacked Jones twice and tallied four quarterback hits, said he felt like "nothing was working" for New York through the first half, and he took pride in that fact.
"Defense in the first half was very, very, very dominant," Burns said. "There are little things that we can clean up, but for the most part, I feel like the defense was really in tune and on one page."
Barkley, the NFL's leading rusher in Week 1, was practically a non-factor in the first 30 minutes against Carolina. He totaled 3 yards on five carries in the first half. Barkley's first seven attempts of the day went for 5 total yards. He finished with 72 yards on 21 carries, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Burns said he felt like the Panthers did a "great job" against Barkley, particularly after storylines leading up to Week 2 were focused on improving the run defense.
Veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson agreed on the positives against Barkley, but he brought his overall message back to the defense's overall need to create more turnovers.
"He's still a great back; I'm not taking anything away from him," Thompson said. "But (we've) got to keep going. That was a strong first half. (We've) got to finish the game. … Games come down to takeaways, and we've just got to get better with that."
Barkley was largely kept away from flashing the explosive play ability he showed in Week 1 against the Titans, but he still took five plays 8 or more yards – all in the second half. His two longest rushes went for 16 yards and 15 yards.
Carolina's added focus on run defense paid off one week removed from allowing Cleveland 217 rush yards (5.6 yards per carry), in a season-opening loss. The Giants totaled 103 total rush yards on 33 attempts, an average of 3.1 per carry.
Thompson said he would be telling young players on the Panthers' defense to feel the disappointment when a strong first half ends up in a loss.
"Let it hurt, watch film, and let it go," he said.
The Panthers chased Jones throughout the day. They tallied three total sacks against Jones – two from Burns and one from Ioannidis – and nine quarterback hits, including four from Burns.
There's seemingly enough for the Panthers to build upon heading into Week 3 against the Saints. While they're going to feel the pain and disappointment of the loss, they're also going to use it to move forward into three upcoming home games.
"We can't get too discouraged," safety Jeremy Chinn said. "I feel like one day we'll look back on today and this time now, have a lot of answers from it and learn a lot from it. So we can't be discouraged.
"A lot of people are going to write us off right now. We understand that. But we've got everything we need in this locker room. We trust these guys in here."
View best in-game photos from Carolina's game against New York.