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Sidelines Notes

Giants beat the Bears: Film review notes and observations

The Giants defeated the Bears in overtime, 30-27, on Sunday. Here’s what I saw watching the game film.

  • It was once again a tale of two halves for the Giants offense, but unlike last week, the second half offense was much improved from the first half. The Giants were fortunate to only trail 14-10 at halftime, given the offense had five punts (including four three and outs), one interception and one field goal in five offensive possessions. They kicked the field goal only because the Bears stopped the clock with a timeout when the Giants were trying to run out the first half clock. Alec Ogletree’s interception return for a touchdown was their only first half trip to the end zone.
  • Until Barkley’s final (and unbelievably athletic) 22-yard run of the first half, he had just six runs for 21 yards. Manning, meanwhile, had dropped back to pass 19 times, completing only seven passes for 73 yards. The Bears played exceptionally well in the secondary, leaving few open receivers, but Manning targeted Odell Beckham Jr. on eight of his 17 pass attempts.
  • What changed in the second half? The Giants committed to the run. Despite missing some time, Barkley carried the ball 17 times for 82 yards. The 29-yarder in overtime was his big gainer, but otherwise he was still getting fairly consistent yards with few negative plays. Wayne Gallman added five rushes for 16 yards in the second half, giving the team 22 total versus just seven in the first half. The total number is not as significant as the percentage of running plays, which doubled from 27% in the first half to 54% in the second half.
  • The Giants personnel also helped the second half run game. Manning was under center in 12 (2 tight ends), 21 (1 fullback + one tight end) and 22 (1 fullback, 2 tight ends) personnel far more in the second half. The first half featured more 11 personnel and shotgun. Pat Shurmur might have been able to call even more plays with bigger people if they converted more third downs in the first half (1-7).
  • Manning played better in the second half, thanks in part to more play action passes and converting more reasonable third down situations (5-10). After a rough first half where he threw an interception and had a couple close calls (7-17, 73 yards, 1 Int), he was much more efficient in the second half and overtime, going 12-18 for 97 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He protected the football against the best takeaway team in the league, one that averaged nearly three takeaways (including two interceptions) per game. The Giants punted just twice after halftime and scored on four of six drives.
  • The Giants offensive line deserves credit for the way it prevented the Bears front from dominating the game. The Bears had three sacks and got pressure on Manning, who did a good job stepping up in the pocket on a number of occasions, but the passing game functioned well in the second half. The run blocking was a bigger bright spot. Barkley continues to run decisively and downhill because the offensive line is giving him the confidence and space to do so. There is very little hesitation in how he is running in recent weeks. Tight ends Rhett Ellison and Scott Simonson (who pancaked Khalil Mack on a Barkley second half run) deserve praise, too.
  • The Manning throw to Beckham for his only touchdown pass was not an easy one. Pressure was in his face, and Beckham had yet to clear the defense when Manning released the ball. He put just enough air under it and put it in the right place for Beckham to come down with the ball. It was a culmination of a 13-play drive that featured seven runs and six passes for 60 yards.
  • Give credit to Kyle Fuller for the way he anticipated Manning’s throw to Beckham on the interception. Whether it was film study, a read of the route combination, Beckham’s body language, or all three, Fuller knew what was coming and jumped the route. The Bears are the best team in the NFL at making plays like that.
  • Even though the Giants didn’t score on the drive, their next to last drive of regulation was their longest drive of the game in terms of yardage and time. The Giants ran their first play of the drive with 9:18 on the clock from their own nine-yard line and held the ball until their punt with 2:36 remaining. The 53-yard drive should have yielded points, but Manning was sacked on 3rd and 8, knocking the team out of field goal range. It was one of only a few straight dropbacks on the drive. The Giants ran the ball five times on the possession and passed it seven times, including four play action attempts out of 21, 22 and 12 personnel. It was an impressive drive when the team needed one to put the game away.
  • Everyone should be tipping their cap to Sterling Shepard with how he gutted through the game with a painful rib injury. Even though he couldn’t catch Manning’s perfectly thrown overtime pass in the end zone (which would have made Manning’s final stat line look more impressive and ended the game), he had a couple of important catches for first downs. Shepard said he lost the potential game-winner in the lights.
  • The Giants had poor execution on the onside kick at the end of regulation. The front line did not block who they were supposed to and Beckham didn’t get where he had to in order to make a play on the ball. Little mistakes matter when the opponent executes a good play like the Bears did there.
  • It was a mixed bag for the Giants defense, but their three takeaways were the difference in the game. Ogletree’s first interception put a touchdown on the board, and his second took one off the board as Chase Daniel’s pass intended for Tarik Cohen would likely have been caught for a touchdown. The defense’s third takeaway, a strip by B.W. Webb, led to a field goal. That’s a 17- point swing by the defense and that was the difference in the game.
  • Early in the game, the Giants looked like they had a really good feel for the Bears route combinations and what they were trying to do with their quick passing game. That comes from good preparation, film work, and coaching during the week.
  • The Giants had their best pressure game of the year. They sacked Daniel five times and disrupted his timing on many plays. Pat Shurmur said on Monday that Olivier Vernon played his best game of the year and the game film confirmed it. He had his way with a good left tackle in Charles Leno Jr. A couple of the Giants’ sacks were also of the coverage variety, thanks to the secondary, which kept the Bears wide receivers quiet.
  • Rookie B.J. Hill had three sacks. One came when Daniel had to hold the football as he was trying to go down field but finding no one open. Another came on an aborted screen pass. The third, however, came on a great inside swim move, getting past right guard Bryan Witzmann for the sack.
  • Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher seemed willing to bring pressure and trust his defensive backs to cover one on one. On the final play of the game, the Giants brought the house and left their cornerbacks in zero coverage. Janoris Jenkins rewarded his coach’s faith by knocking down the deep pass to Taylor Gabriel.
  • The Giants played good run defense the first couple series with Davlin Tomlinson being active in the middle. The Bears started to get it going late in the first quarter and finished with 118 rush yards on 32 carries.
  • The Giants defense struggled to get off the field at the end of the fourth quarter. Tarik Cohen was a thorn in the Giants’ side all game. He defeated every matchup and led all players with 156 receiving yards.

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