Oct 082010
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New York Giants 17 (2-2) – Chicago Bears 3 (3-1)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: Due to unexpected business travel to Indianapolis this week, I was only able to view the game once and it was on a crappy outdated big screen TV in a brightly lit Buffalo Wild Wings bar that was full of pissed off Colts fans.  As such, the review will be somewhat more brief than normal.

I’m sure most of BBI remembers the 2007 America’s Game program in which Michael Strahan reminisced how week three against the Washington Redskins was as important as any playoff game that he’d been in.  Strahan said that they could feel the season spinning out of control, and that the late goal line stand turned around the Giants’ 2007 season.  It’s hard to imagine that the Giants felt any different than that going in to Sunday night’s tilt with the Bears.

The Giants had lost two straight after a win over hapless Carolina that was harder than it should have been.  To make matters worse, the loss last week to the Titans was self inflicted, and the entire team was indicted for sloppy play, poor execution, and a lack of discipline.  Let’s face it, Sunday was as close to a must win in October as they come, and the majority of The Corner Forum didn’t have a lot of faith in seeing Big Blue turn it around against the undefeated Bears.

As it turned out, the Giants not only got a hugely needed win, they got a confidence boosting, intensity raising performance that hasn’t been seen since they were playing against the weaker sisters of the league back in the early part of the 2009 schedule.  Problems still exist.  Special Teams continues to be a complete and utter joke.  Several times, the Giants nearly self destructed but were bailed out by simple good fortune.  More times than not, the gaffs they committed on specials will lead to turnovers or points for the other team.  Fortunately for the Giants this time, that did not happen.

Turnovers.  The Giants have now committed 13 turnovers in just four games and continue to sit at -4 in turnover ratio.  That has got to change.

Offense: The Giants offense was once again extremely effective moving the ball, but again couldn’t capitalize on turnovers created by the defense that provided them with great field position early.  The massive amount of turnovers are taking tons of points off the board and keeping games that should be blowouts close longer than they should be, and causing winnable games (Titans) to be losses.

The Giants had several opportunities to put this game away early but were unable to capitalize on several opportunities:

On the offense’s first play of the game, Eli Manning had Steve Smith ALL ALONE for what could have been an 86 yard touchdown but Manning severely under threw Smith and the ball landed incomplete.

The second time they had the ball, the Giants had an impressive drive going and were set up on a 1st and 10 from the Bears 12 yard line, but ended up settling for a field goal.

After the defense set the offense up with a 1st and 10 from the Chicago 28 yard line following an interception, the offense could only muster up 8 yards (including 5 by penalty) before special teams missed a field goal.

After the defense once again set up the offense at the Chicago 29 following another turnover, the offense actually lost yardage due to a false start penalty by RG Chris Snee, forcing them to punt from the Chicago 34 yard line.  It’s telling when the head coach elects to punt instead of attempting a 51 yard field goal.  The Giants netted just 14 yards on that particular punt.

Set up again by the defense, the Eli Manning fumbled on the Chicago 46 yard line, thwarting a drive before it even began.

The offense, including penalties, only gained 2 net yards in the second quarter.  Unbelievably, that was 21 yards better than Chicago’s net for the quarter, -19 yards!  One thing that may have slid under the radar, statistics wise, is that Chicago held the ball for 3 more minutes than the Giants in the first half.

The offense finally got going in the second half, rolling up 283 total yards, but most importantly, running for 142 of them and chewing up the clock.  The Giants held the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the second half, and again, would have blown this game wide open if it hadn’t been for a couple more turnovers, one inside the Chicago 10 yard line.

The Quarterback: Eli Manning didn’t throw an interception, but he didn’t throw a touchdown pass either.  Manning’s stats could have been significantly better, but he had several throws that were simply ‘off’.  He missed two receivers (Smith early, Manningham later) open deep for what could have been touchdowns, and also seemed to throw late a couple of times to open receivers, resulting in the defenders being able to recover and make plays on the balls.

Manning was also credited with a  fumble that was really caused by Brandon Jacobs simply missing the handoff.  Overall, Manning finished just 18-of-30 for 195 yards and was sacked twice.  Probably most importantly for Manning and the Giants in general going forward, Manning was hit only 3 times on 32 drop backs on the day.  That’s MUCH better than in past weeks.

The Running Backs: Ahmad Bradshaw solidified himself as the number one back on the team after being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for week 4.  Ahmad rushed 23 times for a season high 129 yards and a touchdown and also caught 2 passes for 14 yards.  Bradshaw had but one blemish on his resume from Sunday night, and that was allowing himself to be caught unaware from behind while heading in to the end zone and having the ball punched out of his arms for a turnover.  Bradshaw was better in his pass protection, not going at the knees of his opponents and instead taking them on straight up more often.

Brandon Jacobs had his best night in eons, though he too had a critical fumble that led to Chicago’s only points.  Jacobs ran 6 times for 62 yards, most of the yards coming in garbage time, and 1 touchdown.  Big Brandon also caught 1 pass for 4 yards.

FB Madison Hedgecock caught 1 pass for 1 yard.  Though he didn’t have a great day blocking once again, he did have an excellent ‘block’ on Bradshaw’s 25 yard gain in the 3rd quarter as he ran the OLB outside and combined with a great pull by Rich Seubert provided a huge hole for Bradshaw to exploit.  On the very next play, however, while leading Bradshaw on his touchdown run, instead of attacking the MIKE linebacker in the hole, he went outside to double with Bear Pascoe the DE though Pascoe had his man neutralized.  This left Bradshaw one on one with the MIKE, but with the help of Chris Snee, he was able to power it into the end zone.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Giants receivers had a pretty quite night, relatively speaking.  Hakeem Nicks had a very good night, catching 8 of 9 passes thrown his way for 110 yards.  Nicks made a couple great adjustments to balls in air, and has quickly become the #1 target for Manning.  The rest of the receivers were largely invisible, as Steve Smith only caught 4 balls and Manningham only had one thrown his way.  Smith had 8 thrown his way, and did drop one.

Travis Beckum had a very good night in both the running and passing games.  Although he only caught one pass, he ran a great route to settle in beyond MIKE LB Brian Urlacher for a 25 yard gain.  Manning made a great pump fake to keep the safety and CB off Beckum, and then delivered a strike.  To his credit, Beckum also made a couple very solid blocks in the running game.  Bear Pascoe didn’t have a ball thrown his way, but he also did an admirable job playing from the FB position after Hedgecock got hurt.  Pascoe isn’t the best blocker on the line of scrimmage, but from the FB position in straight line blocking he actually looked good.  Dare I say even better than Hedgecock has been.  The other TE, Kevin Boss, caught just one pass thrown to him for 11 yards, and dropped what could have been a little 3 yard out that should have been enough for a 3rd down conversion.

Offensive Line: I wasn’t able to see much of the offensive line play, but I did notice that backup C Adam Koets was at least partially at fault for the Jacobs fumble as he whiffed on his man off the snap, causing Jacobs to alter his path to the line and he never secured the handoff from Manning.  Other than that, it appeared that the line did a good job for most of the night.  Seubert and Snee both had good nights pulling and although I know that Shawn Andrews saw time at tackle and once again started at TE, I was not able to key on or break down any individual play.  Two good things, however, are noteworthy.  First, it’s clear that they were better in pass protection as mentioned early Manning was only hit 3 times on the night.  Also, they were able to open enough holes to allow the backs to gain a combined 191 yards.

Defense: What the heck WAS that?  Who WERE those masked men?  That was INCREDIBLE!  It’s safe to say that not many people saw this coming, but Eric from BBI had this to say in his game preview:

“If the Giants are going to be contenders this year, this is a game they need to win.  Call me crazy but I think the offense and defense are getting into sync.”

At the least, he got it half right, and it’s the half that most Giants fans love most.  Take a look at these first half statistics:

9 sacks of QB Jay Cutler (an NFL record for the first half)
0-7 on 3rd down for the Bears
2 total first downs for the Bears
35 net rushing yards
-13 net passing yards (55 yards lost to sacks!)
2 turnovers forced (1 INT, 1 Fumble)
The longest play from scrimmage for the Bears was 11 yards

And it didn’t get much better for the Bears in the second half.  The Giants, contrary to published reports, DID send a fifth man at least half the time, but overall they were able to get sustained pressure with just four.  Chicago came out trying to pass early, throwing the ball on 9 of their first 11 plays.  In fact, Chicago ran 20 pass plays to only 7 in the first half, and it’s a wonder that they didn’t try to go to the run a bit sooner seeing as 9 of those 20 plays ended up with Cutler losing yards.

For the day, the Giants didn’t allow a 3rd down or a 4th down conversion.  They also gave up just 110 total yards.  That’s astounding.  The average gain per offensive play for Chicago was a putrid 2.1 yards!!!!

Essentially, the Giants smelled blood in the water and fed off their continued success as the game went on.  They never relented, and if not for a turnover deep in Giants territory Chicago would not have scored in this game.  Chicago did not cross the 50 one time in the first half, and only crossed it once on their own in the second half.  This was a thorough beat down in every sense of the word.

Front 7: Memories…Of the Line I used to knoooow…Happy, QB Killing Me-mor-ieeeees….of the liiiine, I looooved!

What can be said that hasn’t been said?  Justin Tuck was a BEAST.  7 solo tackles and 3 sacks.  He played a lot of the hybrid position that Kiwanuka usually plays, and he was all over it.  Chris Canty may have been the most important player on the field on Sunday.  He dominated his opponent, plugging the middle along with Barry Cofield and still managing to be a major force on the pass rush.  The middle push was almost as if there was no resistance inside.  Osi who?  The guy whose knee and hip are so banged up he can’t be effective?  Umenyiora, you say?  WELCOME BACK OSI!  What a force!  His inside move was effective all day, and it hasn’t been seen in who knows how long.  After 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, it’s clear he’s finding whatever it was that he lost.

Two other players that had very, very good nights along the line are the much maligned Dave Tollefson, who only had 1 tackle but did crash the pocket well and also had 2 passes knocked down at the line.  Then there’s rookie Jason Pierre-Paul, who didn’t figure into the stat sheet, but was all over the place forcing Cutler to move into sacks coming from other areas.  He also showed good hands after falling back into coverage on a zone blitz and intercepting a pass, which was nullified by a horrid late hit call.

The linebacking corps had Goff and Boley on the field with S Deon Grant early on, but Clint Sintim did get into the game and played well when he was in there.  Goff was a beast.  He’s getting it.  My only knock on Goff is that he seems to be more interested at times in engaging his block instead of shedding it and getting to the ball carrier.  That dissipated to a large extent on Sunday, shown by several instinctive plays to get to RB Matt Forte behind the line.  Here’s hoping that this was a coming out party for Jonathan Goff.  Many thought the Bears would try to attack him over the middle in the passing game, but it never happened.

Goff ended up leading the team with 10 tackles, half a sack, and 2 plays thrown for a loss.

Defensive Backs: The defensive bounced back BIG time from a rough outing against the Titans.  The group combined for 5 passes defensed, 1 interception, and with the help of a ferocious defensive line gave up no big plays at all.  Terrell Thomas had easily his best game of the year, recording an interception and recording a pass defensed as well as 6 tackles.  Corey Webster had another shut down day, and the safeties were outstanding, especially in the running game where Kenny Phillips was a wrecking ball.

Special Teams: Ok.  It’s gone from bad to ridiculous to surreal.  The amount of mistakes that were made on Special Teams would normally wind up killing the team.  As Warner Wolf would have said, “Let’s go to the video tape”:

K Lawrence Tynes’ opening kickoff only goes to the 16 yard line and the Giants allow a 13 yard return, giving Chicago great field position to start the game.

Darius Reynaud let the first punt to him bounce into his chest and nearly lost the ball.

Matt Dodge DROPS his first punt, and instead of walking forward 4 yards for a first down, kicks the ball with an illegal man downfield.  I’m not faulting him for kicking it, but situational awareness should be expected of the player, and he had no idea what was going on around him.

Tynes misses a chip shot 38 yard field goal because holder Matt Dodge can’t get the ball down properly.

Forgoing a 51 yard field goal, Dodge punted from his 34 yard line and hit the ball into the end zone for a net field position change of 14 yards.

Seriously, are you kidding me?  When asked about what he said to Dodge at half time, HC Tom Coughlin said “I told him to try to do better in the second half.”  Well, he did.  There were no major Special Teams gaffs in the second half, but they also did nothing to turn the game, either.

Something has changed with Tynes, as his kickoffs are significantly shorter than what they were in preseason.  By significant, I mean as much as 20 yards on some occasions.  As we do not know the strategy of the unit, it could be he’s been told to kick short with hangtime so his coverage unit can get down there, but that doesn’t seem to be the case because his hang time is no better than when he does kick it deep.

The return teams were still bad.  Reynaud has not been the answer in the punt OR kickoff return game and frankly new blood should be inserted.  Give someone else a chance.  As for coverage teams, they were much better this week as they got Chase Blackburn back and Gerris Wilkinson played as if he were possessed out there.  That hustle was a welcome sight.

Coaching: Another great game plan by Fewell, this time executed to perfection.  Hopefully, they’re “getting “ it on defense.  Also, OC Kevin Gilbride used some pretty interesting packages with Pascoe at FB and getting Travis Beckum into the game from the slot.  Also, he did a good job of mixing his backs in the game.

Offensive Player of the Game: Ahmad Bradshaw would have graded off the charts had he not fumbled a sure touchdown.  High and Tight, Ahmad!  High and Tight!

Defensive Player of the Game: The entire Defensive Line gets the nod here.  They combined for 23 tackles and 8.5 of the sacks.

(Box Score – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, October 3, 2010)
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