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Film Study: Scouting the Giants-Bears matchup

The Giants come off their bye week to take on the Bears on Sunday. Chicago is 4-6 this season after going 12-4 in 2019.

Here's what I saw from the Bears after reviewing he coach's tape and delving into their numbers:

When The Bears Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Running Back Tarik Cohen

Cohen's rushing numbers are 116 rushing yard and a 3.05 rushing average on 38 attempts. He does have the second most receptions on the team with 43, but is only averaging 5.8 yards per catch. He is fourth on the team with 251 receiving yards and, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he only has four drops this season.

The Bears use Cohen in the backfield, lined up in the slot, and as an outside receiver. They like to create opportunities to get him the ball in space on either short passes, screens, or shallow crosses. One of the Bears' favorite plays is to send Cohen into the flat to draw the defenders up, before he turns up field to get behind the defense. He nearly had a deep seam pass go for a touchdown against the Giants last season.

The Matchup: Wide Receiver Allen Robinson

Robinson is two years removed from ACL surgery. He has played well with 633 yards on 57 catches. At 6-3 and 211 pounds, he has a huge catch radius with good hands to make catches up and away from his body. He is adept at contested back-shoulder catches and only has two drops. He only has 131 yards after the catch this season.

Robinson is the team's leading receiver and go-to player when they need a big play. Against the Rams last week, he caught just four passes for 14 yards, but he had six catches for 86 yards against the Lions in week 10. He lines up outside about two-thirds of the time, but has lined up 186 times in the slot.

Schemes and Tendencies

* The Bears offense is ranked 30th in yards per game (262.7) and yards per play (4.34). No one averages fewer yards per pass play (5.28). The Bears are only converting 30.5% of their third downs, which ranks 29th in the NFL. Three and out drives comprise 31.8% of their possessions, which leads the NFL.

* The Bears are tied for the fewest pass plays of more than 20 yards with 21. No team has fewer pass plays of 10 or more yards than their 83. They have the fewest run after catch yards in the league with 802.

* The Bears quarterbacks have a 67.22 quarterback rating when facing a blitz.

* Discipline needs to be the key word when a team plays the Chicago Bears. They don't run nearly as much pre-snap and jet sweep motion as they did last year, but they use other misdirection post-snap to get defenses moving in the wrong direction to create room for their playmakers. According to PFF, they have run the fourth most RPO's in the league, with 92.

* Two consistent things jumped out while watching how Chicago creates big plays. They flood a side of the field and have their players all near each other at the top of their routes, before running them to different levels of the field. It will be essential for Giants defensive backs to communicate who is covering who to prevent free runners. They also like to send players on what look like simple short routes, such as quick outs or routes into the flat. The receivers will then quickly turn upfield once their defender commits coming downhill. A different receiver clears out the cornerback downfield, creating space for the player running the double move. Giants linebackers will have to be on alert and not get caught napping on these types of plays. The Giants pass rush will also have to get home to prevent some of these slower developing plays.

* The Bears love to use the wheel route with both their running backs and tight ends. Cohen is their main target on these plays, but teams also need to be alert for Adam Shaheen (unlikely to play with injury) and Ben Braunecker on those routes. Shaheen missed last week's game against the Rams with a foot injury, and starting tight end Trey Burton is on injured reserve.

* Taylor Gabriel is a smaller wide receiver at just 5-8 and 165 pounds, but he has burner speed to get deep and make plays after the catch. He primarily lines up outside and has four touchdowns this season. Anthony Miller is the Bears slot receiver. He is a sudden route runner with the speed to get behind the defense. The Bears like to stretch the defense with deep routes out of the slot. Miller has three drops on 40 targets this season.

* After practicing in full on Wednesday and Thursday, it looks like quarterback Mitch Trubisky will get the start for the Bears on Sunday. He is averaging only 175.6 passing yards per game. According to PFF, he has completed just 5 of 28 passes for 78 yards on throws between 10 and 20 yards near the sidelines. He has completing 13 of 38 deep passes for 413 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Trubisky runs the read-option and is a threat to run but he only has 58 rushing yards this season.

* While Cohen is the Bears all-purpose back, rookie David Montgomery serves as their early down grinder who gets downhill and gains yards after contact. He is a threat to break tackles on every play, so the Giants will have to sure tacklers and wrap him up and bring him to the ground. Montgomery also has 19 catches for 152 yards. The Bears have only used play action on 18% of their pass plays this year, the 5th lowest rate in the league.

* The Bears offensive line has allowed 30 sacks, and their quarterbacks have faced pressure on 30.7% of their dropbacks, 9th highest in the league, according to PFF. Left tackle Charles Leno has been their best offensive lineman, allowing only one sack and six quarterback hits. Bobby Massie has been solid at right tackle, only allowing two sacks and four quarterback hits, according to PFF. He left the game against the Rams with a back injury but is expected to play this week.

Keys For The Giants Defense

  1. Be disciplined in the defensive backfield
  2. Pressure the quarterback
  3. Don't let the Bears move the ball with the run game

When The Giants Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Edge Rusher Khalil Mack

Mack is one of the most dangerous edge defenders in the league. He has 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. According to PFF, he also has four quarterback hits and 40 hurries. He has more than twice as many hurries as anyone else on the Bears' defensive front. He lines up almost equally on the right and left sides of the defense and will rush from both two-point and three-point stances.

Mack can win in a variety of ways, with speed off the edge, inside counter-moves, power, or with hand-usage and good technique. He is solid against the run. The Giants will have to know where he lines up on every play and be ready to give help if he starts disrupting the offense.

The Matchup: Linebacker Roquan Smith vs. Saquon Barkley

Roquan Smith has 78 tackles to lead the Bears and has sideline to sideline speed. As a rookie, he flashed star potential. At 229 pounds, Smith is one of the few linebackers in the league with the athleticism to have a chance to stay with Barkley in space.

Smith had one of his most productive games of the season against the Rams last Monday night with 11 tackles, several of which stopped the Rams short of first downs. With fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out with an elbow injury, the Bears will need him to continue his strong play against the Giants this week.

Schemes and Tendencies

* The Bears lost 2018 defensive coordinator Vic Fangio when he was left to become Broncos head coach. They replaced him with Chuck Pagano, who stuck with a 3-4 base defense but altered some of the team's tendencies. After managing 36 takeaways last season, the Bears have only 14 in 2019.

* After ranking 9th in sacks per pass attempt last season, Chicago is 23rd this season. According to PFF, they rank 25th in pressure percentage (31.9%). They rank 21st in blitz percentage (25.9%) and 25th in the percentage of plays they use stunts (14.1%).

* The Bears are still a top 10 defense. They are top seven against the run and pass in terms of yards per play and rank 6th overall (4.96 yards per play). They make sure teams do not run well on first down, holding opponents to 3.95 yards per rush, which is 5th best in the league. Their rush defense on second down is even better, holding teams to a 3.16 rushing average, which ranks 3rd in the NFL.

* Eddie Goldman has been consistent at nose tackle. He has been a force as a run stopper and pass rusher in the middle of the field. Nick Williams and Roy Robertson-Harris have done well holding up against the run since Akiem Hicks went down with an elbow injury in Week 5.

* Nick Kwiatkoski replaced Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker after the latter left the Bears Week 10 game against the Lions with an elbow injury. In 144 snaps this season, he has two sacks and 23 tackles. He is effective around the line of scrimmage.

* The Bears do a great job of varying their coverages. They only play man to man defense a little more than 30% of the time, according to PFF. Cover three is their most utilized zone overage, but they mix in zones with both safeties deep on nearly 30% of their plays. They try to confuse opposing quarterbacks and force them into mistakes by varying and disguising their coverages.

* The Bears defensive backs are aggressive trying to jump routes and force interceptions. Some of their gambling has resulted with opponents getting opportunities to go over the top for big plays. Safety Eddie Jackson is their centerfielder and coming off an All-Pro caliber season in 2018. He is a ball hawk and tries to anticipate opposing quarterbacks and force interceptions. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has replaced Adrian Amos as the team's strong safety.

* Prince Amukamara has developed into the Bears best cover cornerback. Receivers he has covered have only 27 catches on 43 targets for 316 yards and one touchdown. Kyle Fuller is other outside cornerback. Buster Skrine is their inside cornerback and has been a solid starter.

* The Bears do not give up big plays. Opponents have only attempted 28 passes that have traveled 20 or more yards in the air, which is the second fewest in the league. On those attempts, they have a passer rating of 67.9. They've only allowed 28 plays this season that have gone for 20 or more yards, which is 4th best in the league. Two of those have been runs, which is tied for the fewest in the league.

*Between their strong early down run defense and propensity to prevent big plays, the Bears force teams into a lot of third downs. They have done well in those situations, allowing only a 35% conversion rate (8th best in the NFL). No team is better in 3rd and more than 10 yards, holding teams to a miniscule 7.7% conversion rate. On third downs of more than six yards, they are the 6th best team in the NFL.

Keys For The Giants Offense

  1. Pass frequently and well on first and second down to stay out of third and long
  2. Make good decisions against an opportunistic secondary
  3. Don't let Khalil Mack wreck the game