Flailing Giants Offer Bears Real Chance to Go Deep
The situation facing the Bears might look bleak.
If you really want bleak it's coming to Soldier Field Sunday. It's the New York Giants.
As bad as this Bears season has been with a rapid fall from elite status to 4-6, the Giants are in a ditch far deeper. It goes beyond their six-game losing streak and 2-8 record.
They're in complete reconstruction mode and can't seem to do much more than spin their wheels in an attempt to escape.
Even in a disappointing season, the Bears can't say they've seen their defense drop off a great deal. Sure, the turnovers haven't come, but turnovers don't always result from good defensive play.
Without Akiem Hicks and now Danny Trevathan, the Bears have managed to remain eighth on defense, fourth in scoring defense. There's always hope for a rebound quickly in the future as long as they're playing this kind of defense.
The Giants are 23rd against both the run and pass, yet their problems are across the board.
Daniel Jones has given them hope for the future at quarterback, yet they've watched him fumble 13 times and throw eight interceptions. Saquon Barkely hasn't been himself with an ankle injury, and has actually run for fewer yards than the Bears' David Montgomery.
And the Giants have turned over the ball more times (24) than any team except the Bucs.
That's one thing the Bears have been able to say about their offense: They don't do much with the ball but at least they take their three downs before giving it away on a punt or missed field goal.
To make sure the Giants continue their current trend, the Bears have to hit all three of these keys:
1. Set the Edge and Keep It There
The loss to the Giants last year only happened because the Bears lost contain against Barkley toward the end of the first half and had trouble re-setting it. They let Barkley dictate the entire second half. Even if it means keeping Khalil Mack focused on stopping the run instead of the pass, they need to maintain gap integrity and keep Barkley contained in places where they can get to him with more than one tackler at a time. One at a time invites disaster.
"I think the only thing is pretty much the ankles on everyone are the same size, so you better get this guy wrapped up," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We have to gang tackle, slide down, and try and slide those ankles together. Usually if you do that, most guys will go down, even this guy.
"He's electrifying. He's a great player. He can run through you, run around you, jump over you–a lot of different things. He's going to be a huge challenge for our defense."
2. Own First Down
The 4.58 yards averaged by the Bears on first down is an ugly number, 29th in the league. Whether they do it with some form of Montgomery run or with the short passing game, the Bears need to set themselves up better for makeable third downs by hitting a 7- or 8-yard gain on first down consistently. It will lead to more ball possession, which further increases pressure on a rookie quarterback while making his standout running back less of a weapon.
3. Take Shots Downfield
The Bears are the worst team in the NFL in yards per pass play. They can't run, and Mitchell Trubisky is throwing lateral or short passes. Defenses are just sitting and waiting there. If the Bears can't get a pass downfield or a long catch-and-run against the Giants, they can't do it against anyone.
The Giants' defense is worse than all but one other team at giving up yards per pass. They rely a good deal on man-to-man coverage and are not very good at it. They'll likely be playing zone against the Bears because everyone does, but it's something they do even worse.
Bears coach Matt Nagy said it's a matter of recognizing when shots are available, and being able then to do something about it.
"You know, I go back to the Philadelphia game right?" he said. "You know we had that shot to (Taylor Gabriel) and that kind of got us going but we'd like to certainly have more."
This isn't quite a match made in heaven for the Bears on offense, but does give them a fighting chance for a change to go deep.
The line: Bears by 6 1/2
The call: Bears 23, Giants 13
Elsewhere this week
Ravens -3 at Rams
Ravens 20, Rams 16
Packers +3 at 49ers
Packers 28, 49ers 23
Cowboys +5 at Patriots
Patriots 27, Cowboys 17
Jaguars +3 at Titans
Titans 21, Jaguars 17
Bucs +3 at Falcons
Falcons 37, Bucs 33
Broncos +3 at Bills
Bills 19, Broncos 17
Steelers -6 at Bengals
Steelers 24, Bengals 10
Dolphins +10 at Browns
Browns 17, Dolphins 10
Panthers +9 at Saints
Saints 28, Panthers 16
Raiders -3 at Jets
Jets 20, Raiders 13
Lions -3 at Redskins
Redskins 20, Lions 19
Seahawks +1 at Eagles
Seahawks 26, Eagles 23