Chicago Bears 20 (2-1) – New York Giants 17 (1-2)
By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
The Giants came into the game on Friday night missing a lot of pieces on both sides of the ball. Key players out of action for what is normally considered the most important pre-season game were RB Ahmad Bradshaw; WR Hakeem Nicks; and OT Will Beatty on offense; and DEs Jason Pierre-Paul and Adrian Tracy; CBs Terrell Thomas and Jayron Hosely; LBs Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams; and DTs Chris Canty (PUP), Marvin Austin and Shaun Rogers on defense. Several other piece parts were also out of action.
To make matters worse for the defense, CB Prince Amukamara left the game in the first quarter with what is being termed a “moderate high-ankle sprain.” Later, LB Mathais Kiwanuka left the game with a groin strain. Kiwanuka stated that it’s an injury that he also had in the past and will manage it in the same way, not expecting to miss the opener.
Despite the issues with players missing time, New York played well on both sides of the ball during the first half in which they left the field with a 17-7 lead. Notable stats during the first half:
- The Giants average starting field position was 10 yards better than Chicago.
- New York rolled up 188 yards on 13 first downs (though 3 were by penalty) and converted 3 of 7 third downs.
- New York also held Chicago to 101 yards, including just 72 yards through the air. Chicago converted just 3 of 9 third downs and had four drives end in 3 plays and out. Chicago also had a 4 play drive.
- The Giants commit four penalties for 30 yards, but did not commit a turnover.
- New York special teams blocked a punt which they converted into a touchdown towards the end of the first half.
- The Giants dominated the time of possession, holding the ball nearly 5 minutes longer than Chicago.
- New York had a couple breakdowns on kickoff coverage. On the two long returns by the Bears, each was aided by a missed tackle that should have been made.
All in all, the Giants played a solid first half of football.
The first team offense started off slowly on their first drive, but picked it up after that as they scored on drives of 8 plays (field goal) and 10 plays (touchdown). The Giants running game looked good when they were getting to the edge, but not so good inside. Downfield blocking by WRs Victor Cruz and Dominek Hixon was excellent on the early long runs by RB David Wilson.
The passing game had no trouble with the Bears secondary, as it seemed they were able to throw with impunity anytime they wanted to. Giants receivers were open all half. Two of Eli Manning’s four incompletions were dropped balls and two were throwaways.
The second half offense was another story. New York could not get a drive going until the final possession of the game, going 3 and out four times and had two other drives of 4 and 5 plays. Until that final drive, New York only mustered three first downs and 39 total yards. The Giants punted six consecutive possessions and committed and interception on the final drive and kept the ball for just 11:19.
QB Eli Manning had his best game of the preseason as he completed 17 of 21 passes for 148 yards and his first touchdown of the year. Manning had little pressure at all. He wasn’t sacked and only took one hit on the night. Manning distributed the ball to 8 different receivers. Manning also drew a pass interference call in the end zone on an attempted fade to WR Ramses Barden that set up the Giants’ final touchdown of the game.
QB David Carr did not have a good night, completing just 7 of 16 passes for 76 yards and an interception. Carr missed on several passes to open receivers, but truth be told the Giants were constantly in long down and distance situations due to a stagnant running game during the second half. Carr was also under extreme pressure behind a shaky second-team offensive line, and took a big hit on his very first pass of the night in which he threw high to an open WR Isaiah Stanback. The play would have resulted in a first down had he been able to bring the ball down. Later, after a nice run by Da’Rel Scott for a first down at their own 42 yard line, Carr missed a wide open Jerrel Jernigan at the Chicago 40 as he threw the ball into the ground. Finally, he overthrew WR Rueben Randle on a go route on a first down play from deep in Chicago territory. Randle stumbled a bit on the route, and it may have impacted the play. Carr was only sacked once but he was hit at least three other times.
The Running Backs:
On the night, the running backs didn’t see a large amount of action as they rushed the ball just 17 times for a total of 72 yards. As mentioned, the Giants seemed fine running outside but had very little success up the middle. New York’s running game was hit or miss, but mostly miss, in relation to being able to play ahead of the chains. The Giants were unable to establish manageable down and distances on 2nd and 3rd down due to the anemic rushing attack, especially in the second half.
Rookie David Wilson had an outstanding night, especially on the edge. On the Giants’ second drive, Wilson had back to back runs of 20 and 15 yards and then a nice catch and run for 29 yards on the very next play. On the two running plays, Wilson had help with outstanding blocking from the WRs and TEs, but he also broke tackles to gain solid extra yardage after first contact. Wilson hits the hole quickly and seems to hold up well against contact to maintain his balance and gain those extra yards. Wilson ended the game with 49 yards on 5 carries and 2 catches for 26 yards. On Wilson’s first run, the Giants ran an interesting misdirection play to the right side behind pulling TE Bear Pascoe and FB Henry Hynoski. I do not recall that play being run in the Giants’ offense in the past.
RB Da’Rel Scott had a rushed 5 times for 16 yards, but did not have very much to work with after his 15 yard run. Scott nearly converted a 3rd and 14 yard play by gaining 12 yards on a screen pass in which he made some nice moves. Scott also blocked a punt on a nice rush from the edge.
D.J. Ware did not figure much in the game and Andre Brown had a forgettable night, gaining just 3 yards on 6 carries. Brown seemed to get the bulk of the goal line duties and other than bouncing his touchdown run outside for the yard needed for the score, Brown didn’t do much in the short yardage game.
The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:
The Giants starting wide receivers played well on Friday night, and in particular Ramses Barden who may be on the bubble for a roster spot.
Barden caught all three passes thrown his way for 46 yards (team high for yardage), a touchdown, and he also drew a pass interference call on a fade route in the end zone. Barden’s solid game included a beautiful slant in which he turned around CB Charles Tillman with a nice fake to the fade. Unbelievably, it was Barden’s first touchdown ever in the NFL. The interference call he drew was also against Tillman.
WR Victor Cruz led the Giants with 5 catches worth 28 yards. Cruz dropped one pass. On David Wilson’s 15 yard run, Cruz made a key block on S Craig Steltz that left Wilson room to juke in the hole, shake loose and get down the sideline. Cruz is obviously ready for the season.
Rookie WR Rueben Randle is going to make a big impact on this offense. He only caught 2 of 5 passes thrown his way for 21 yards. He’s getting tons of playing time and if I were to guess, I’d say he’s going to be the starting #3 WR on the outside by the middle of the year and he won’t look back.
The rest of the receivers were a mixed bag, especially in the second half when Carr was missing them left and right. It wasn’t that they weren’t open, as evidenced by the Jernigan and Stanback examples noted above.
TE Martellus Bennett again proved his worth as a blocking TE, and also caught 3 passes for 15 yards. The Giants attempted to hit Bennett on a screen but the play never had a chance. Screens have been less than successful for a long time for the Giants, particularly middle screens.
Adrien Robinson had two catches on the final drive of the game and seems to have pretty good hands.
The Offensive Line:
The Giants once again started Sean Locklear at LT in place of injured Will Beatty. Locklear appears to have the inside track to the starting job as David Diehl continues to hold down the RT position that many thought James Brewer would inherit from Kareem McKenzie. Locklear looks fine in pass protection. On Friday he got to tangle with Julius Peppers and did an adequate job. I thought he got away with a hold on one play, however, in which he wrapped his arm around Peppers’ neck and ran him to the ground.
I wanted to get a good look at the Giants’ running game and how the starting offensive line was performing so I decided to take a look at each first half running play individually to see what was going on.
1st and 10 from NYG 16: New York was in an I formation with 2 wideouts and 1 TE to Eli’s left. Wilson followed Hynoski to the left behind a good push from Bennett and Locklear for a 4 yard gain.
2nd and 12 from NYG 14: Giants overloaded the short side of the hashes with TE Martellus Bennett on the line about 3 yards outside Locklear with Hynoski and Pascoe “wishboned” 2 yards behind him. Wilson was the lone back in an “I” with Eli and Barden split outside on the wide side. The formation looked a lot like the old counter trey that the Redskins used to run in the 1980s. On the snap, Wilson began to the strong side behind Bennett, but pivoted and followed pulling TE Pascoe and FB Hynoski. LG Kevin Boothe pulled and got a great seal block on the LDE Julius Peppers, Hynoski disrupted the outside linebacker, and Pascoe led with a great block on the safety. Outside, Barden stayed with the block and took the CB down field and out of the play. Diehl crashed into the line then slipped off his block to get up field and put a lick on the MIKE linebacker. It was a very well executed play and gained 20 yards.
1st and 10 from NYG 32: Giants in a single back formation with 2 wide and a second TE, Pascoe, lined up as a slot receiver on the strong side. Bennett again was lined up next to Locklear. On the snap, Cruz slanted to attack the strong safety. Pascoe crashed down on the RDE and actually took out the SAM and DE. Locklear shifted to block the DT and Boothe pulled to lead Wilson. Boothe successfully blew up the MIKE and Cruz eliminated the safety leaving Wilson to run right past the CB and gain 15 yards.
1st and 10 at CHI 12: Giants in an offset I with Hixon wide on the short side. Pascoe came in motion to the left and then back to the right behind Bennett. On the snap, Bennett crashed inside on the DT while Boothe pulled to take out the SAM. Pascoe helped double with Bennett but didn’t need to. If he had cleared the SAM, Boothe would have been in the second level to take care of the MIKE. Hynoski did a great job of taking out the nickel CB who was run blitzing, routing him wide and out of the play. Brown was unable to make a cut in the hole and was dropped for a one yard loss. David Diehl was called for a hold that was very ticky tacky in nature.
1st and 15 from CHI 15: Giants in single TE set to Eli’s left with two receivers and an offset I. The Giants faked a handoff to Wilson’s left with RG Chris Snee pulling. David Diehl left Peppers to crash on C David Bass’s man while Baas peeled off to take Peppers wide. Unfortunately, Baas and Snee collided a bit, slowing Baas down and by the time he got to Peppers it was too late and the end around to Hixon resulted in a 13 yard loss. Had Baas been able to get to Peppers, that play was wide open as every other defender was or was about to be engaged.
2nd and 1 from NYG 40: The Giants in an I formation with two WRs and single TE to Eli’s right. RT David Diehl pulled to his right around Bennett, who took the DE inside. Snee fired upfield and stoned the MIKE linebacker as Wilson followed Hynoski to the right behind Snee. Hynoski got enough of the SAM and Victor Cruz was able to turn the CB around allowing Wilson to gain 9 yards and the first down. Excellent blocking and running.
1st and 10 from NYG 49: Giants in a double TE single back set with two WRs. Chicago had 7 men in the box on this play. Somehow the MIKE linebacker was able to shoot the gap to make the play for no gain in the backfield. There was very little room on the right where Wilson was trying to go even without the pressure from the MIKE.
2nd and 9 from NYG 43: Giants in an I formation with two WRs and single TE to Eli’s right. Giants tried to run a draw to Brown. Chicago again had 7 in the box but this time Locklear was unable to neutralize Peppers who got a great inside push. That rerouted Brown outside and right into the waiting LB who had beaten Hynoski. The play gained just 1 yard.
1st and 10 at CHI 34: Giants in an offset I with 2 WRs tight and one TE to Eli’s left. This play had legs. The Giants had caught Chicago with 5 linemen and 2 LBs. LT Locklear crushed Peppers inside to take him completely out of the play. Pascoe fired to the second level and chipped the MIKE before moving to blow up the SAM. Hynoski negated the DE to Peppers’ right and Snee had pulled to lead Brown. For some reason, Snee ran right past the MIKE and helped Pascoe seal off the SAM and the MIKE dropped Brown in the hole for a loss. That play looked like it was going to go for very big yardage. Instead, it was a 1 yard loss.
1st and 10 from CHI 19: The Giants were in the I formation with 1 TE and two receivers split wide. Again the Giants had Chicago with 5 down linemen and 2 LBs. On this play, the blocking looked solid except that Hynoski may have led Brown to the wrong hole. Diehl and Snee had done a very good job opening a hole that Hynoski could have made bigger giving Brown an opportunity. Instead, Hynoski went straight forward into the A gap, leaving nowhere for Brown to follow. Brown tried to bounce it outside but at that point the advantage was lost and he was tackled for a 1 yard loss.
1st and 10 from NYG 33: Giants in shotgun with 5 linemen and 4 wide (Bennett about 3 yards wide of the line of scrimmage). Snee fired off the ball to get to the second level but missed his block on the SAM which resulted in Ware only producing a 4 yard gain. The rest of the line did their jobs.
1st and goal from CHI 1: Giants in goal line formation with no wide outs and 3 TEs in an I formation. The key to the play was a great drive block by Pascoe on the DT while LG Kevin Boothe pulled to his left to absolutely bury the safety who was playing on the end of the line. Brown had a fairly easy run off left end for the 1 yard touchdown.
For the first half then, the run blocking was mostly effective, but the keys are the fact that the WRs, TEs and FB are playing key roles and doing their jobs effectively. As for the pass blocking, as mentioned there was very little pressure on Eli and the numbers speak for themselves.
As for the backup linemen, it’s another story. The most surprising problems are that it appears OG Mitch Petrus has regressed, and James Brewer doesn’t look like he’s even close to ready to play tackle.
Once again the Giants were missing three key starters and had three other key personnel come up with injuries on Friday night (Amukamara ankle, Kiwanuka groin, and Mark Herzlich shoulder). The defense didn’t seem to miss a beat until Amukamara went out and CB Bruce Johnson came in for him.
The first team defense played for just one half, and except for one drive kept the Bears at bay. Most laudable was the fact that the defense held Chicago running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush to just 6 yards on 9 carries. WR Devon Hester did gain 19 yards on an end around.
In the passing game, Jay Cutler only completed 7 of 17 passes for 72 yards and 1 touchdown. Other than the 59 yard touchdown drive, Chicago never got into an offensive rhythm .
The second and third team defenses didn’t fare so well, giving up drives of 7, 9, 8, and 11 plays spanning the third and fourth quarters, relinquishing 13 points and the lead. Chicago gained 187 second half yards.
The Giants starters were outstanding against the run on Friday night, limiting the Bears to just 29 yards on the ground with 23 of them coming from other than running backs. Without DLs Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty as well as LB Michael Boley, the Giants started Tuck and Umenyiora on the ends with Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard at DT. Veteran Keith Rivers started on the weakside with Blackburn still manning the middle and Kiwanuka at SAM. Interestingly, the majority of the tackles all game, not just in the first half, came from the linebacker and safety positions. The starting DTs and DEs were in on just 5 tackles. The starting LBs and safeties were in on 15. That’s actually a good sign when you realize how well they bottled up the Chicago running game in the first half. The backup linebackers weren’t to be outdone, as Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Greg Jones all made multiple plays.
The key, however, may be Rivers who is playing with great speed from sideline to sideline and has really anchored the unit since the middle of training camp. The biggest question regarding Rivers was whether he could still be counted on in coverage and so far he’s been very good. If that continues and the secondary can get healthy, I see a big year for Antrel Rolle.
The starters didn’t get much of a sustained pass rush, and didn’t register a sack or a QB hit on Jay Cutler. DT Marcus Kuhn, who did see situational duty in the first half, managed to get to Cutler twice and played very well. He may well have earned himself a spot in the rotation with his solid game. DE Adewale Ojomo had a strip sack of QB Jay Cutler, but the Giants were unable to recover the ball.
Mark Herzlich was all over field and made his presence known once again on specials when he forced an Eric Weems fumble by fighting through a block and making the hit to jar the ball loose. Weems recovered after a mad scramble almost gave the Giants a first and goal at the Chicago 5 yard line. Herzlich still appears to be the heir apparent to the middle linebacker position, but he needs to stay healthy and put a string of decent outings together in order to unseat the plugger named Chase Blackburn.
It’s hard to believe now that linebacker wasn’t Mathias Kiwanuka’s drafted position. He’s gotten better and better and made a couple good plays at the line of scrimmage to stop Forte.
As I write this, I realize that I don’t recall hearing Corey Webster’s name one time during the game. He started at the left CB position and then just disappeared. Going back to the game book, he wasn’t in on a single tackle or pass defensed, either. Honestly I cannot remember him being in on a single play. That is awesome! I would love for any team to disregard one third of the field any day of the week against the Giants.
Prince Amukamara was having a good game before going down with the high ankle sprain. He made a text book tackle to keep Brandon Marshall to no yardage after the catch on the play after he injured his ankle. His backup, Bruce Johnson, did not fare so well. On two back-to-back plays, Cutler targeted Johnson. On the first, Johnson stuck with the receiver on a crossing route and was able to get his hand in to knock the ball out at the last second. On the next play, however, he was burned badly by Marshall who scored on an easy pitch and catch with Cutler. Later, Johnson allowed the go ahead touchdown by whiffing on a tackle. In coverage on 3rd and 8, WR Joe Anderson caught a 3 yard stop route and ole’d Johnson who should have had him stopped short of the first down. Instead Anderson walked into the end zone for the score.
Michael Coe is small. Next to Brandon Marshall he looked like me and Eric standing next to Eli Manning. That said, he plays big. He’s a tough, pugnacious guy who isn’t afraid to get his nose bloodied and come back for more. He played much better than Johnson. He made a very nice play on a short pass to Marshall to get his hand in and try to knock the ball away but Marshall’s ability to shield the play and his strength allowed him to come down with the catch. I don’t think it would’ve mattered who was on Marshall during that play, that’s almost impossible to defend.
Has anyone else noticed how much more active Kenny Phillips is around the line of scrimmage? He was in on two more plays at or behind the line on Friday night. Phillips seems to be underrated by many because he’s not in on a lot of passing plays. Frankly, the less you see him in the secondary is an indication of how good his play is. No one throws deep on Phillips. Antrel Rolle hasn’t been in on as many tackles this preseason as normal, but I’m not sure if it’s scheme or lack of opportunity. I still haven’t figured out what Rolle’s position is going to be on this team, and with injuries mounting at the CB position it probably remains to be seen.
New York had a couple of break downs on kickoff return coverage that resulted in two long returns and committed two penalties on David Douglas’ nice return. There were a couple other penalties (illegal man downfield and another for a false start) and a punt that was partially deflected. These errors need to be cleaned up, but the majority of them came from players that are trying out for positions. On the bright side, Tynes continues to look like an All Pro kicker, Steve Weatherford is just amazing, and the Giants committed no bobbles or fumbles. To further the good, RB Da’Rel Scott blocked a punt that was recovered by LB Greg Jones, setting up the Giants’ final touchdown. Also, as mentioned, Mark Herzlich forced a fumble on a kickoff.
The Giants obviously tried out a few more formations on both offense and defense as they ready for the regular season. There are a lot of positions still up for grabs and some players you’d hope to step up (like Ramses Barden, Da’Rel Scott, Marcus Kuhn) did and that will make the decisions harder for the coaches. Others are making it hard on themselves. Injuries keeping assured players out of the game are sometimes the only way that a player is going to get a chance to shine, and few if any of the back up offensive linemen and defensive backs are doing much to show they deserve a spot on this team.
This is going to be one very interesting week and a half for the New York Giants. There is one game to go with the New England Patriots next Wednesday before final cuts need to be made and the bullets fly for real against Dallas. I believe a lot of the injured will begin to return this week or next, just like they did at the end of preseason last year. We’ll really know the extent of the injuries to Boley, Nicks, Austin, Beatty and others if they aren’t ready to go by next Wednesday. As for this particular game, I prefer to hang my hat on the fact that the starting teams, despite some big time injury losses, really dominated the Bears.