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Eye On the Bears: Scouting Report

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants and Chicago Bears this week resume one of the NFL’s oldest and most storied rivalries. In 50 regular season games since 1925, the Bears hold a 28-20-2 advantage over the Giants, who have won three of the last four meetings. In the postseason series, the Bears lead, 5-3, including victories in four out of six NFL Championship games between the two clubs. This season, Chicago is 8-3 and riding a five-game winning streak.

The Giants are 3-8 after losing last Sunday in Philadelphia. The teams last met on Nov. 20, 2016, when the Giants rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to win, 22-16, in MetLife Stadium.

What is the Bears’ biggest strength?

Defense, defense, defense, where the Bears have playmakers at every level and rank in the top five in numerous statistical categories. They are second in the NFL in points allowed (19.2 per game), fourth in net yards allowed (316.1), second in yards-per-play (4.95), second in rushing yards allowed (80.8), and first in takeaways (29). Chicago’s pass defense is ranked 10th, giving up 235.3 yards a game, but it has limited opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 78.3 passer rating. The Bears’ defense has scored six touchdowns, five on interception returns and one on a fumble return. Safety Eddie Jackson has three of the scores.

Which player is key to the Bears’ offense?

Second-year running back Tarik Cohen, a multiple threat who is a matchup problem because of his blazing speed and receiving ability out of the backfield (he has huge hands). Cohen is second on the team with 47 catches and four touchdowns, including a team-long 70-yarder. He has also rushed for 285 yards and two scores.

A special mention goes to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who missed the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit with a right shoulder injury and might be inactive vs. the Giants (he’s been limited in practice). Trubisky has thrown 20 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions, and he leads all NFL quarterbacks with 363 rushing yards. His replacement, Chase Daniel, has played in coach Matt Nagy’s system for several years.

What is the strength of the Bears’ offense?

Nagy’s creativity. The first-year head coach spent 10 years – five each in Philadelphia and Kansas City - learning under Andy Reid, one of the NFL’s offensive masters. Nagy’s three big playmakers are wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, tight end Trey Burton, and Cohen. Gabriel stretches defenses in a number of ways, Burton has eight receptions of more than 20 yards, and Cohen has a knack for shaking off the first tackler. He moves them around the formation in search of favorable matchups, and all three are running and receiving threats. So is Jordan Howard, the team’s leading rusher with 536 yards and five touchdowns.

View the projected starters for this Sunday's game against the Bears.

Which player is key to the Bears’ defense?

Outside linebacker/game-wrecker Khalil Mack. Though he missed two games with an ankle injury, Mack leads the Bears with 8.0 sacks and is tied for the NFL lead with five forced fumbles. Acquired in a trade with Oakland on Sept. 1, Mack went on to earn the NFC Defensive Player of the Month. In four September games, Mack had 17 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, three tackles for loss, and an interception he returned for a touchdown at Green Bay.

What is the strength of the Bears’ defense?

The front seven, which has dominated opponents during Chicago’s winning streak. Mack is not a one-man band. Eddie Goldman is a very good run-stuffing defensive tackle. Next to him is Akiem Hicks, who is more of a pass rusher and has 4.0 sacks. Three of the Bears’ four starting linebackers – Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith and Mack – are former first-round draft choices. Smith, a rookie, leads the team with 81 tackles (61 solo) and has 4.0 sacks. Danny Trevathan, the fourth backer, is second with 75 stops (54 solo). Floyd is much more disruptive than his statistics (29 tackles and 1.0 sack) indicate. Chicago is also solid in the secondary where cornerback Kyle Fuller has five interceptions, Jackson has four, and former Giant Prince Amukamara has two, including one he returned for a touchdown.

Which player is key to the Bears’ special teams?

Cohen. Yes, him again. With Chicago’s defense routinely stopping opposing offenses, Cohen has NFL-high totals of 26 punt returns and 322 yards. His 12.4-yard average ranks fifth. As a rookie last year, Cohen returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown against San Francisco.

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Find a way to run the ball against a team that has been so stingy in giving up yards on the ground. Protect Eli Manning. And most of all…don’t turn the ball over. The Bears don’t just lead the NFL with 29 takeaways. They have scored a league-best 104 points off those turnovers, 25 more than the runner-up Rams. If the Giants cough up the ball Sunday, they will likely do the same to their chances of winning.

Statistics you should know:

*The Bears are tied with the Cleveland Browns for the NFL’s best turnover differential at plus-14. Chicago has league-high totals of 29 takeaways and 20 interceptions.

*Chicago has more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes allowed (19).

*The Bears are 8-0 this season when holding opponents under 24 points.

*The Bears and Chiefs are the only two teams to hold a second-half lead in every game this season.

*Chicago is fifth in points scored (28.8 a game) and second in points allowed (19.2), the only NFL team in the top five in each category.

The Giants first played the Bears in 1925, making this their oldest active series.

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