Monday, November 21, 2016

Big Blue Defense Clamps Down on Bears


It was ugly, but the Giants still found a way to get the win. Where have we heard this refrain before? Just about every week for that matter when it comes to the New York Giants. No I didn't copy and paste from Monday's recap of the Bengals-Giants game, although it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Sunday against the Bears was ugly, but in the end it didn't matter, because Big Blue found a way to extended their win streak to five games.

Bears Dominate First Half: A lot of people tapped this match-up as a trap game for Big Blue, and for the entire first half it was coming to fruition as the Bears were flat-out dominating the Giants.

Jay Cutler was extremely poised in the Bears opening series as he guided Chicago to a game opening touchdown pass to Zach Miller to take the early 6-0 advantage. The Bears would score on their first three possessions of the football game, with tight end Zach Miller and tail back Jordan Howard killing the Giants defense.

On the Bears second possession, Miller had a 34-yard reception on third and nine from the Bears 40 that set up a Connor Barth field goal to give the Bears the lead back at 9-6.

At the start of the second quarter, Cutler picked apart the Giants again, this time with soft tosses of 10-yards and 16-yards to get the Bears to the Giants 38-yard line. Finally, Jordan Howard did the rest when he shot up the right side and dashed all the way to the Giants seven-yard line before being chased out of bounds. Jeremy Langford would cap off the drive a one-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Bears a commanding 16-6 lead with 8:35 to go before halftime.

The Good Eli Shows Up When He's Needed: While it was an inconsistent day for the offense, like he had last week against Cincinnati, Eli Manning was great when he needed to be. He calmly led the Giants down field for the tying score on their first possession of the game in the first quarter. On the drive, Manning was 5-of-7 with his biggest pass of the game coming on fourth and two at the Bears 17 when he hit Sterling Shephard for a 15-yard gain to the two. Rashad Jennings finished the drive with a two-yard dash into the end zone to tie it up at six.

Manning later elevated his play into a higher gear at the start of the third quarter with his team coming out of the halftime locker room trailing 16-9. He completed a big third and eight  with a 12-yard completion to Shephard to get into Bears territory. On the next play, Manning found Odell Beckham Jr. for 20-yards near the sideline to set up first and goal. Two plays later, Manning found a wide open Will Tye for the score to tie the game up at 16.

After the Giants defense forced a Bears three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter, Manning went right back to work. He connected with Shephard for five yards on second and nine from the Giants 22-yard line, then, Manning ran for a first down on third and short. On first and ten from the 31, Manning hit a streaking Victor Cruz for a 48-yard bomb to drive right into the Chicago red zone. Three plays later, Manning found his new favorite target in Sterling Shephard for the touchdown to put the Giants up for the first time all day, 22-16.

Sterling Shephard: Shephard had a huge day for the Giants. The rookie from Oklahoma hauled in five passes for 50-yards and a touchdown. He is second on this team in receiving yards, and is quickly becoming one of Manning's favorite targets.

Rashad Jennings: Jennings had his second straight solid game for the Giants out of the backfield. New York showed more commitment to the run, and Jennings awarded Ben McAdoo's confidence with 87-yards on 21 carries and his first touchdown of the year. While, the Giants offense did fall asleep after taking a 22-16 lead, the effort Jennings displayed is hard to ignore.

Giants D' Does it Again: Another close ball game, another big day for the Giants defense. After watching Jay Cutler have his way with them in the first half, Steve Spagnuolo's crew had none of it in the second half. Of the seven possessions the Bears had in the second half, only one drive went into Giants territory, a drive that would end in a missed field goal by Barth. Overall the Giants held the Bears to a grand total of 81-yards of offense in the second half. That is domination.

Jay Cutler was running for his life in the second half, as the Giants sacked the sluggish QB four times, two of which belonged to Jason Pierre-Paul. Landon Collins finished off the game with another game-killing interception for Big Blue. The interception gives Collins now five on the season, and one in each of the last four games for the Giants. It was also a big day for nose tackle Damon Harrison, who had six tackles on the day.

Not So Special Special Teams: Sunday was not a good day to be a kicker. Thanks to the bitter cold temperatures, rain, wind and snow across the lower 48, there were a total of 12 missed extra points in the NFL -- a new league record for a single day. The Giants-Bears game was no exception. Bears kicker Connor Barth missed an extra point and a field goal in this game, while his counterpart, Robbie Gould missed two extra points. Had this game been played in better weather, the score likely would have been 24-20, not 22-16.

What is next? The Giants have another "trap game" on the schedule for next Sunday when they visit the winless Cleveland Browns (0-11). The Browns are a horrible football team -- which is putting it mildly. Cleveland's best chance to win a game came and went when they blew a 20-7 lead against the Jets a few weeks ago. The Giants are a much better team than their MetLife Stadium counterparts, so the Browns are the ones who are in for it. This is a game Big Blue should win fairly easily.

What to Look For: Don't look now, but the NFC East is turning into a powerhouse division before our very eyes. Not only are the Cowboys 9-1, but the Redskins and Giants are right in the mix for the two wild card slots. The Skins destroyed the beat-up Green Bay Packers on Sunday night 42-24, and head to Dallas red hot at 6-3-1. The winner of the Dallas-Washington Thanksgiving tilt will give the Giants a good indication of where they stand in the race for the NFC East title and wild card berths. Not to mention, with Green Bay's loss it is looking more and more likely that the NFC East could send two teams to the playoffs. Keep in mind however that Minnesota does own a tiebreaker against the Giants.

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