James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears 17 – New York Giants 13
Less than 6 days after the Giants Week 1 loss, they had to travel to Chicago on short rest to face off against the 1-0 Bears. The two historic franchises have split their contests over the past two seasons, with CHI taking the 2019 match-up 19-14. The Bears came in riding high after a huge 4th quarter comeback in Detroit Week 1 as they aimed to sit atop the NFC North after this one. Also a team that has been trying to gain their true identity over the past few seasons under Head Coach Matt Nagy, the Bears have a lot of pieces in place when comparing them to the Giants on the field.
The theme of the day, notably in the first half, for the NYG defense was a clear inability to make stops on third down. It began right away, as CHI went 4-for-4 on the opening drive. The fourth conversion resulted in points after David Montgomery took a 3rd-and-7 catch from the sideline to midfield after a lateral cut that fooled nearly half the NYG defense. CHI took the early lead and then NYG, on their first 3rd down conversion attempt, turned the ball over as the newly-signed Robert Quinn forced a Daniel Jones fumble, giving CHI the ball back just 20 yards away from the end zone. Fortunately, Anthony Miller, one of the heroes from their Week 1 victory, dropped a touchdown catch and CHI had to settle for 3 points. 10 Minutes into the game, NYG was down 10.
The ensuing Giants drive was a three-and-out but the NYG defense did stop CHI their next possession. Then, one of the most demeaning drives of the year began. Saquon Barkley fell awkwardly on his arm after a nice 18-yard run. He missed just one play but on the opening drive of the second quarter something in his right knee gave out. After a 6-yard gain, he stayed on the ground at the CHI sideline clutching his knee, slamming the ground, with his helmet off. Watch just enough football and it was easy to tell, this was bad. He was carried off the field and 4 plays later Jones threw an interception to CHI safety Deon Bush. NYG was down 10-0. Barkley had a serious injury. Jones had turned the ball over twice in three drives.
They traded event-less possessions a few times before CHI put together an eleven-play drive toward the end of the half. On 3rd-and-7 from the NYG 15-yard line, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham tried to get creative with an amoeba front to rush the passer. It consisted of Lorenzo Carter, Blake Martinez, Nate Ebner, and Oshane XImines. That four-man rush resulted in Trubisky having all day to throw and making it nearly impossible for the defenders in coverage to stick to their assignments. This resulted in a throw into the end zone and into the waiting arms of rookie receiver Darnell Mooney. It was 17-0 at the half.
This is the kind of start that, against a good team and quarterback, you could write the “L” in the win/loss column already. Fortunately, the Giants were up against Trubisky and an inconsistent CHI squad.
To create an even further uphill climb, Sterling Shepard re-aggravated a foot/toe injury on the first play of the 3rd quarter that he initially tweaked at the end of the first half. This team was desperate for a game-changing play. Trubisky, yes Trubisky, responded. He threw an interception on his first pass to Julian Love via a tipped ball by cornerback James Bradberry. Love returned it to the CHI 25-yard line. A drop by Darius Slayton on 3rd down, which would have netted an easy first down, made NYG settle for a 39-yard field goal. NYG was on the board, down two touchdowns.
After a defensive stop where the questionable CHI play-calling started to appear, NYG began their next drive on their own 5-yard line. They traveled 95 yards on 11 plays. During that span, they had three straight plays with gains of 20, 12, and 12 aided by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty by CHI linebacker Roquan Smith. After their inside-5 yard line offensive woes week 1, NYG failed to punch it in on two straight attempts from there. It was 4th-and-1, down 17-3, at the beginning of the 4th quarter. This was a must-score situation. Dion Lewis took the ball and snuck his way through traffic behind the inside-right side of the offensive line. NYG was now down 17-10.
As stated above, the opposition is always in it when Trubisky is taking snaps on the other side. Case in point, on the fifth play he lofted the ball up the right sideline on 3rd-and-4 when he had two underneath targets open for an easy conversion. This resulted in a miraculous interception by Bradberry and NYG had all of the momentum. It was time to tie this game back up.
Jones had a pick six nullified by an Eddie Jackson pass interference. It was a very close, but correct, call by the refs. Instead of CHI being up 24-10, NYG got the ball to the CHI 33-yard line on the very next play down by 7. Three straight incomplete passes, however, once NYG got into the red zone made them go for a field goal that Gano nailed through the uprights. It was 17—13 Chicago. With 7:43 left in the game, CHI tried to run the clock out with some initial success.
A potential nail in the coffin came from the most unlikely of plays that I can’t recall ever seeing before on 4th down. Once again, with CHI trying to move the clock and Trubisky at quarterback, they passed the ball two straight times on 3rd-and-2 / 4th-and-2, respectively. The 3rd down attempt fell incomplete and the 4th down attempt was broken up but somehow ended up in the hands of right tackle Bobby Massie. He fell into the first down and enabled CHI to get more clock-eating plays while chewing into the NYG timeouts. Kicker Cairo Santos failed a 50-yard field goal attempt and NYG was now down 17-13 with 2:02 remaining at their own 40. They had a shot and were in the middle of a 13-0 run.
Without any timeouts, NYG inched their way up the field in a touchdown-or-lose situation. Some will argue that they didn’t take enough shots downfield, but the point of a drive like this (where you are likely going to have spike the ball and lose opportunities) is to get credible shots at the end zone at least two or three times. CHI was playing a very safe-defense, putting multiple defensive backs deep making it near impossible to send the ball downfield. After all, NYG did have three plays from inside the CHI 20 (one being a 4th-and-1) and one from the CHI 10. Jones was late to see an open Golden Tate, a trend I will speak about below, and the final play of the game was a pass broken up by Eddie Jackson.
NYG loses 17-13.
-Daniel Jones: 25-40 / 241 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 68.9 RAT
Jones also lost a fumble on the very first drive of the game. He added 21 yards on 3 carries. It was a first half to forget, as he turned the ball over twice and his team was down by 17. One thing we know about Jones and I know we keep saying it. This is important, though. Jones is incredibly tough and has a short-memory. Things were looking about as bleak as it gets after the first three possessions. A turnover, a 3-and-out, another turnover, and a bad injury to the team’s best player in addition to the 17-point deficit. They inched their way back to the point of having a credible shot at the end zone to win the game in the fourth quarter. That is where the positives end, however. Jones was late to see the whole picture in this one. He was very hesitant, and he held onto the ball way too long, including the final play of the game. He doesn’t do the offensive line any favors with the way he second guesses his reads. A couple of the sacks were on him and his fumble was on him as well. If he isn’t throwing the ball, he needs to keep two hands on it. No debate. As stated at the end of last year, Jones won’t stick around for long if these turnover numbers remain as high as they are right now.
-Saquon Barkley: 4 att – 28 yards
The second quarter injury to Barkley is a season-changer for NYG. I don’t want to say season-ender, however. NFL offenses can work around less talent at running back much easier than other positions (one of the cases against drafting running backs high and/or paying them big money, a debate that is sure to come up again). The Giants offense looked fine without Barkley and even though you always want him out there, they can move the ball with different strategies. This is where having Jason Garrett calling plays can be a huge help. As for Barkley, I have a few in depth concerns about the ramifications of this that I will speak about at the bottom in “3 Closing Thoughts”. The one positive here is that, with where ACL/PCL recoveries are now, he will be fully back by training camp, no doubt.
-Dion Lewis: 10 att – 20 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 36 yards
Credit to Lewis for stepping right in and taking every running back snap post-injury to Barkley. He isn’t, and never has been, an every down back. Even though his production wasn’t through the roof, he played well and came up with a couple of key conversions. He also scored his first touchdown in a Giants uniform on a hard-earned 1-yard run up the middle. He did drop a pass late and missed a block in protection. We are going to see a ton of him from here on out, whether NYG hits the free agency market or not.
-Golden Tate: 5 rec – 47 yards
It was Tate’s first action of the season after missing Week 1 with an injury. He caught all 5 of his targets and he was open on the final play of the game. We know Tate is never going to scare anyone deep and we know he isn’t going to win a lot of battles for the ball with his size. However, the guy knows how to get open underneath and he is tougher than nails. With the NYG offense being forced into change and a possible injury to Sterling Shepard, they need to feature him as much as possible when those tough yards are needed. He is limited, but dependable.
-Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 29 yards / 1 att – 6 yards
Shepard essentially played one half of the game because of yet another injury. He tweaked it at the end of the first half and ran one route in the second half before hobbling off. He had missed 11 games from 2017-2019 and it appears he is moving toward increasing that number here in 2020.
-Darius Slayton: 3 rec – 33 yards
Slayton had a huge drop in the third quarter. Otherwise, he had a very uneventful game. Upon my further review, I saw something I really didn’t like in this game from the second-year receiver. After the 2019 season, I said Slayton needs to get stronger and more aggressive off the line. After watching this game a second time, it was easy to see this remains an issue. To be blunt, Slayton looked scared when CHI was pressing at the point-of-attack. He took steps back, he took too long to run around, or he was just man-handled. That can really throw off the timing of a play. This is the thing about second-year players in this league. When coaches get enough film on a guy, the book is out on how to stop them. It is then up to the player to make the necessary changes. If Slayton is going to be a thing in this league for this team, he needs to be better there.
-I am looking forward to seeing C.J. Board get an opportunity for more snaps if Shepard misses time. He played just 11 snaps, was targeted 3 times, and caught 3 passes for 32 yards. I like how he moves after the catch and he seems to play with some extra fire.
-Evan Engram: 6 rec – 65 yards.
Engram was targeted a team-high 8 times and led the team in catches and yards respectively. He had a couple of key plays in the team’s comeback effort. His blocking was less of an issue than what we saw Week 1, mainly because they didn’t run his way often. If Shepard is out for a while and with Barkley out all year, Engram is going to get a ton of looks.
The Giants had three tight ends on the field for a third of their plays week one, by far the most in the league. It didn’t help. That number was cut in half in week 2 and this is where I expect it to settle. Kaden Smith and Levin Toilolo were better in-line than in week 1, but neither factored much in the passing game.
-Andrew Thomas had the worst grade along the line. Looking strictly at numbers, he allowed 3 sacks and 2 pressures. However, two of the sacks can credibly be argued weren’t his fault. Jones ran into one and another was an assignment where, to be honest, I’m not sure what his responsibility was. Nonetheless, he did allow the sack-fumble on the first drive and the two pressures were definitely on him.
-Cameron Fleming tied for the top grade on the line, an above average performance, but one where we still saw him getting walked back a bit and struggling to maintain good contact with his man. He was more impressive in the run game.
-Inside, the trio of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler looked much better than what we saw in Week 1, in particular during the second half. Hernandez allowed a sack on a late stunt but besides that, he was solid. Zeitler allowed a TFL in the first half but was fine otherwise. He still looks overly stiff out there. Gates was better than Week 1 as well, but that isn’t saying much. I still want to see more movement off the ball but in key moments, he got the job done.
-Lorenzo Carter had 4 tackles and a sack. He disengaged from his man better than what we have seen since his career began here. The biggest thing we need to see from him is week-to-week consistency. After 2 games, I am very encouraged by his play in multiple levels.
-Markus Golden was on the field for 15 plays (23%). I know they may be bringing him along slowly and perhaps he isn’t quite ready, but the lack of pass rush is an issue. He looks very lethargic off the line, hopefully he just needs a few games to get his groove back. But his missed tackle on Trubisky, which led to a first down run, making him look like a guy who doesn’t belong. Oshane Ximines out-snapped him by 4 plays and recorded a TFL. Otherwise he has been non-factor. NYG doesn’t have anybody on the edge who scares you.
-Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson were a solid 1-2 punch for most of the day. They combined for 9 tackles, a pressure, and a broken up pass. When they get to stay at home, they both swallow up double teams and keep linebackers clean. They are both powerful enough to shed and tackle as well. Tomlinson’s issues, and it happened on two of CHI’s bigger runs, is a lack of lateral speed and quickness. He was getting reached easily by tackles coming across his face and it cut him off from making the back-side pursuit plays.
-Leonard Williams was quiet in the box score (2 tackles / 1 pressure). He struggled as a pass rusher, as he was double-teamed more than anyone on the Giants front. This is where having a more dangerous threat on the outside could really benefit this defense. If you single team Williams, he is going to make a big difference. In addition, I was impressed with his lateral movement against the run. He stays square to the ball carrier while moving left/right and engaged with blockers. That is a tough trait and ability to find.
-Austin Johnson and B.J. Hill each played just under a third of the defensive snaps. They both played well, as Hill recorded his first sack of the season and Johnson took up blockers inside. This really is a deep group of quality interior linemen.
-Blake Martinez led the team in tackles, something we are going to see all year if he stays healthy. He also recorded a sack and 2 pressures. His speed to the sidelines has been a visible difference these first two weeks and he is rarely fooled. The contrast between him and Alec Ogletree is enormous.
-The spot next to Martinez is concerning and one will begin to wonder about the surprising release of Ryan Connelly. You can’t expect Martinez to get to everything, somebody else is going to need to step up. Devante Downs was only on the field for 11 plays but he did damage (against NYG) multiple times.
-Kyler Fackrell had a great game. He doesn’t play next to Martinez much, as his role is one of the more versatile ones on the roster. You can’t just keep him inside, as he does have legitimate pass rush ability. He finished with 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He did have a bad whiff late in the game. Fackrell showed really good lateral range on a couple of occasions but he just can’t be a guy who drops into coverage much. If he does and the offense knows, he will get exposed. The defensive coaches will need to be very calculated with his role, but if done correctly, he can be a difference maker.
-James Bradberry excelled. He wasn’t matched up against CHI’s number one threat Allen Robinson the entire game but he was a huge part into keeping him in check. Robinson had 3 catches, just one was against Bradberry. The free agent signing from Carolina broke up 4 passes (one of which led to an interception) and then brought in an interception of his own on an amazing, savvy play on the ball. He is a really solid player, especially against bigger outside receivers.
-Corey Ballentine allowed a touchdown on a broken play. You can’t expect him to cover a receiver for 7+ seconds but on that play, he was late to locate the ball. There continues to be traits that he just doesn’t seem to have that revolve around game situational awareness and skill. Still a young player though.
-Logan Ryan had 6 tackles and a forced fumble (that was recovered by CHI). He is a very hybrid-player. If this defense can turn things around, he will be a big part of it.
-Jabrill Peppers, after a poor first game, really hurt this team in Week 2. His lack of quality pursuit angles and special awareness when attacking the ball carrier is something he should be past by now. For such a good athlete, the game appears to be too fast for him at times. He is such an explosive straight-line athlete. But when he needs to react and shift laterally, he looks heavy and stiff. That won’t work unless he plays more of a linebacker-type role.
-Julian Love came up with an interception on a tipped ball that led to NYG finally getting on the board with a field goal. He is a right-place, right-time defender who can really benefit from being around Ryan. They are very similar players but we need to see Love get stronger against contact. It is still a weakness in his game that gets exposed.
-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 39, 37 / Missed 57)
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 58.0 avg / 44.7 net
-CB James Bradberry, LB Kyler Fackrell, RB Dion Lewis
-S Jabrill Peppers, EDGE Markus Golden, OT Andrew Thomas
3 THOUGHTS ON CHI
- See where the Bears are right now? They have doubled down on a quarterback (Trubisky) in just his fourth year with just Nick Foles as the fallback option. This creates the question that NYG may eventually be forced to answer. That is, is your first round QB the answer? I like the concept of using three seasons of being a starter to know whether or not you are moving forward. If you aren’t sure about him, then it can be argued you pursue other options at the most important position in sports. Your worst-case scenario becomes having too much talent at the most important position in sports that will create intra-squad competition, which I fully support. No, this isn’t a knock on Jones, he has plenty of time to prove his worth. This goes back to Trubisky and the Bears. He is in year 4 and they just have to know by now, he isn’t THE guy.
- Roy Robertson-Harris / #95 / DL. In the 2017 preseason, I started writing notes down on this undrafted free agent from UTEP. Since then, every time I’ve seen that defense play, he just simply stands out to me. In scouting, this happens sometimes where you just can’t take your eyes off a guy who fits the mold you want in a specific position. Robertson-Harris is going to be a free agent this offseason and I do think he will hit the market, as CHI has so much money tied up. He does so much snap to snap that doesn’t show up in the box score and I think he can be a feature guy in the right scheme. Depending on what happens with Tomlinson/Williams in free agency, he is going to be on the list based on what I think he can be had for.
- CHI is 2-0. They beat a bad DET team and a bad NYG team. Looking at every 2-0 team in the league, they are by far the worst of the unbeatens. When looking at their roster and knowing my disdain for Trubisky, I don’t see a winning team. However, their schedule is filled with several games against teams that I project to finish under .500. They are going to be in the playoff hunt in 2020.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- The elephant in the room. Saquon Barkley and where to go from here. There is no way around it, this absolutely stinks for NYG and Barkley and the fans. You never know what to expect from running backs after this kind of knee injury, especially ones who like to dance and cut the way Barkley does. Another angle to consider how much this hurts when it comes to the big picture is this team gets one less year of Barkley on his rookie contract. Could this damper the value of his next deal? Sure. But a huge part of winning in today’s NFL is getting max vale from rookie deals. Another ramification I am worried about? Will Barkley be hesitant when he comes back? I could be wrong here and I don’t want to dive into psychology because I am not qualified so take it for what its worth. Barkley runs a little timid already. He isn’t soft by any means, but he tried to avoid hits to the point where I think it makes him play slower than he is, especially in traffic. I hope this pop to his knee doesn’t further than issue.
- What does NYG do at running back? I have one suggestion: Sign Devonta Freeman. Let’s not go down the path of giving up on 2020 just yet. The division looks weak and if NYG can get to 8-8 or 9-7, they have a shot at a home playoff game. Don’t forget that. Freeman would be a solid compliment to Lewis and Gallman. He runs hard between the tackles and will break tackles. We can’t really say that about the other two. Now, he isn’t close to what he was from 2015-2018 but there isn’t anything available on the market who is. Freeman can still run quick and hard with good vision and strong ball security. In addition, Freeman has always been a plus-receiver.
- The Giants have two really tough NFC West match-ups over the next two weeks before they take a run against all three divisional opponents. Based on what the NFC East looks like to this point, I think NYG needs to go into these next 2 weeks hoping for a split against the Niners and Rams. Yes, expectations have been lowered here but hear me out. If NYG can go into that 3-week run at 1-3, they can control their early destiny when it comes to the division. If they do enter that stretch at 1-3, and then go 2-1 against the divisional foes, they are sitting at 3-4 with a winning record in the division. I know this is getting way ahead of ourselves but my point is, there is no sense in giving up right now. The Giants are far from legit contention and there are holes all over the roster, but the goal here is to stay within striking distance of the division at the very least. PHI is 0-2. WAS is 1-1. DAL is 1-1. Let that be the focus for now.