ReFo: Giants @ Bears, Week 6
When a team picked to be in the postseason reckoning starts the season out on a losing streak you see the stats presented each week of teams who made a similar start and did or didn’t make the playoffs. With the New York Giants now at 0-6 after another crushing defeat in Chicago, those stats are now irrelevant and this season is all about trying to rescue something, some momentum and identity from a trying campaign two years after being Super Bowl champions.
For the victorious Bears this was a much needed bounce-back win after consecutive defeats to the Lions and Saints wiped out a 3-0 start. Now back in the win column at 4-2 after profiting from the Giants’ mistakes in this game, the Bears face a visit to the nation’s capital which they will be looking for a win to send them into their bye week at 5-2. Coming out of the bye, they have three tough and potentially season-defining games that could either catapult them towards the top of the NFC or see them scrapping for a wildcard spot as the run in gets underway.
Two teams heading in opposite directions after this Thursday Night Football, here are three performances of note from each team.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Reading from the Wrong Script
Things got off to a bad start for Eli Manning and his receivers in this game and they ended on a sour note as well. Intercepted twice in the first five minutes of the game, Manning looked flustered under pressure and not in sync with Reuben Randle, his target on each throw. The first time around he looked to his left and threw a hurried throw with a slot blitz in his face which Zackary Bowman undercut to set up and a Bears’ four-and-out. He followed that up on the ensuing drive, a play after Randle collected a 20-yard gain sitting down in a hole in Chicago’s zone defense, throwing a pick-six to Tim Jennings. Once again he and Randle were reading from different scripts based on pre-snap and during-the-play reads of Jennings’ coverage as our own Sam Monson breaks down in his Thursday Night Analysis Notebook. The end result was a 7-0 lead for the Bears on a gift play from the Giants’ passing game.
Quarterback and receiver then got on the same page with consistent gains, particularly on intermediate passes, as the Giants clawed their way back into the game. However, the comeback wasn’t completed as the Giants’ offensive effort for the game ended on another interception with an air of miscommunication about it, but the biggest factor being Manning simply missing the throw high.
Solid Start from Beason
Midseason trades don’t often work out, but only a week after being acquired by the Giants, Jon Beason showed signs that he could make an immediate impact for Big Blue. This was a mixed showing for Beason but positives were there to be taken especially in run defense (+2.9). The downside was in pass coverage (-2.0), especially in the first half, allowing completions on all four targets for 33 yards and three first downs — the one that didn’t go for a first down he missed a tackle on. However, as the Bears looked to shorten the game with the run in the second half, Beason began to flourish, showing the athleticism and pursuit on his return to middle linebacker running down Matt Forte for a number of stops.
Beason, in fact, led the Giants with seven stops in his debut — his most in a single game since Week 7 of the 2009 season. If he can get back to the sort of pass coverage he showed in 2010 (his last full season with the Panthers), the Giants will have a rare, successful midseason acquisition on their hands. Scant consolation for their losing start, but a valuable piece moving forward, nevertheless.
Setting Up Runs Off End
There has been plenty of buzz about Brandon Jacobs’ performance rolling back the years last night and his 106 yards and two touchdowns certainly paint the picture of a productive night’s work. Plenty of credit, though, has to go to the Giants’ blockers (or in some cases discredit to Chicago defenders) for setting up him with the requisite head of steam to pick up those yards. On average Jacobs’ blockers gave him 2.6 yards per carry before first contact, with even better coming off left end where of Jacobs’ 36 yards on five carries, 26 (more than 5 per carry) came before contact.
On the edge of the offense, the likes of Justin Pugh (+2.6 run blocking), Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and William Beatty did an excellent job of consistently sealing and collapsing the Bears’ defense to give Jacobs a straight-line run into the secondary, getting through to the safeties untouched on more than a few occasions. Even the likes of David Diehl added to this, pulling from the backside and (after failing to locate defenders on his first couple of attempts) leading through the gap to seal and kick out defenders. It was Jacobs putting up the yards, but the guys in front of him did plenty of hard graft for him to get those headline numbers.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
Close to Perfection for Marshall
But for one agonizing drop (on his first target of the game to turn the ball over on downs), this game was almost flawless for Marshall. Sporting neon green cleats in an attempt to raise awareness of borderline personality disorder, Marshall was in the zone from there on in not only as a receiver (9-of-9 for 87 yards and two scores after his drop) but also as a run blocker setting up runs to the edge. Blocking is an often ignored part of a wide receiver’s game but with his size, willingness and technique, Marshall is as likely to hunt out and seal a safety inside of a run as he is to pin a defensive end inside of a pitchout to Matt Forte.
That saw him go up against Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul as much as defensive backs on runs in his direction this week and he laid a handful of quality blocks to do his part in cutting off the Giants’ pursuit. You can get the impression of Marshall’s work as a receiver from the box score, but Marshall’s hidden work as a blocker adds an extra dimension to his play that few receivers maximize.
Positive Results from the Wootton Experiment
When the injury bug bites, you sometimes end up on ‘Plan C’ or ‘Plan D’ trying to cover the gaps. Having lost first Henry Melton and then Nate Collins to season-ending injuries, the Bears were faced with just such a situation and needed to get creative at their 3-tech defensive tackle spot. Enter the frame Corey Wootton, a big defensive end who the Bears are looking at to play the penetrating defensive tackle spot with the depth chart decimated.
After a rough and unproductive first effort against the Saints on Sunday he was far much improved (+4.2) and more productive against the Giants at the second time of asking. As a pass rusher he notched up seven pressures (one hit, six hurries), the most productive single game of his career, as he made the most of getting to work against David Diehl at right guard for the Giants. Even inside, Diehl has real problems in pass protection and Wootton exploited those for four of his six hurries with another nullified by a penalty on the penultimate play of the third quarter. This was a step in the right direction from Wootton and far from a validation that this move will be a roaring success, but for such a move this has to be encouraging. There were issues in run defense that showed his inexperience playing as an inside defender outside of obvious passing situations, but this was outweighed by his productivity as an inside pass rusher. That is a situation the Bears will hope to maintain as they look to improve his feel for defending the run inside.
Busy Night at Safety
The Giants’ ability to bypass the Bears’ front seven on too many runs for comfort, led to a long night for the Bears’ safety duo of Major Wright and Chris Conte. They responded by leading the Bears’ defense in tackles with 10 for Wright and eight for Conte, ensuring that, though Brandon Jacobs was sprung into space plenty, he didn’t do much further damage once he was put there. Both players surrender at least 50 pounds to Jacobs but were fearless and consistent chopping him down in the open field, accepting that they would give up at least three yards during the contact but taking that pill knowing that was preferable to surrendering further if they shied away and fell off the tackle.
In coverage, Wright had a play that he’d rather forget, beaten by Reuben Randle’s cut infield on the score that brought the Giants level at 14, and was left on the ground when Randle almost handed the ball over to the Bears out of frustration late in the third quarter. For the most part, though, the Bears’ deep safeties ended up being the key cogs in their run defense and their night chopping down Jacobs in the open field ensured he never got further than a first-quarter 16-yard carry.
– Rookie tackle Justin Pugh registered the best game of his career to date (+3.9) surrendering only one hurry in pass protection to Shea McClellin to go with his fine night of run blocking.
– After another 10 missed tackles in this game, the Bears’ defense has missed 55 after six games this season… only 30 fewer than the 85 they missed as a defense in 16 games last year.
– Jon Beason’s seven defensive stops are the most for a Giants’ defender in a single game since Linval Joseph notched as many against the Packers in Week 13 of the 2011 season.
PFF Game Ball
Earning his highest single game grade since his arrival in Chicago (+4.3), Brandon Marshall was not only productive as a receiver but tireless and effective as a run blocker to boot in a fine all-around display.
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