EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As they do each week, the Giants will concentrate on stopping their opponent’s offense on Sunday when they host the Chicago Bears in MetLife Stadium.
They might also need a plan to slow down the Bears’ defense.
Yes, defense. It’s debatable whether Chicago’s D is the NFL’s best. What isn’t is that no unit in the league creates more havoc.
The Bears have scored six defensive touchdowns (five on interception returns, one on a fumble return; safety Eddie Jackson has three of them). No other NFL team has more than four (Cincinnati). Chicago leads the league with 29 takeaways, including 20 interceptions (one more than the total of touchdown passes they’ve allowed). Chicago has scored a league-high 104 points off of those takeaways. Its turnover differential is a NFL best-tying plus-14.
If the Giants are to win, they simply cannot led the Bears take the ball from them.
“We all know how important it is and these guys feed off of that,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “They’re as good as probably anybody at getting turnovers, and that’s not just interceptions but stripping the ball. If it’s not the first guy, the second guy is trying to strip the ball while the first guy’s trying to tackle.”
The Giants’ differential is plus-one. They have committed 12 turnovers, which places them in the middle of the NFL pack.
“Obviously, it’s our number one thing each and every week to take care of the football, secure it, and play keep away,” Shula said. “There’s drills to do that. Anybody’s who’s in there is expected to make sure they’re doing everything they can in there to protect the ball, whether or not you’re throwing it or running with it or catching it or whatever. They’re really good at it, and that’s one of the reasons they have the record (8-3) they have, so we’ve just got to make sure we do the things that we can do in that regard to help ourselves stay on the field and get points.”
No easy task, that. The Bears are talent on all three levels of their defense, but particularly in the front seven where perhaps the NFL’s best linebacker foursome in Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, and rookie Roquon Smith. Up front, Eddie Goldman is a run-stopping specialist, and Akiem Hicks is a premier pass rusher.
“This may be our biggest challenge (this season),” offensive line coach Hal Hunter said. “We’ve gone against some really good players, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better player than Mack coming off the edge. I mean, that guy can play. He’s got it all – he’s got strength, power, quickness, redirect, he’s a really quality player. I see why you’d give up the boat (to get a guy like that in a trade as Chicago did on Sept.1). He’s a good player. And the other guy off the other edge (Floyd), he’s got athleticism and length and redirect, and it is a real challenge. But it’s that week every week in the NFL.”
“They got one of the best defenses in the NFL, in the world,” Odell Beckham, Jr. said. “He’s a problem. You got EJ (Jackson) on the back end. You got (cornerback Kyle) Fuller, you got Prince (Amukamara), their linebackers are good. Floyd is over there. They’ve got a team, they’ve got a squad. Their offense is playing at a high level. They got some guys making plays. It’s not easy. Also, they only punt the ball only 2-3 times a game. They’re playing at a very, very high level. It’s definitely not going to be easy.”
Mack has been dominant. The NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, his 8.0 sacks are double the total of anyone else on the team, and his five forced fumbles are tied for the NFL lead.
“Mack, he stands out,” Eli Manning said. “He does a good job getting sacks, causing fumbles, interceptions – he does it all. They’re sound all over. They play good football, not giving up many big plays. Teams aren’t scoring a ton on them. They’re creating turnovers. They’re playing good football, so we got to do the same. We got to be very sound, we have to be disciplined, and try to eliminate them from making big plays.”
The front is backed by a skilled secondary that includes Fuller (five interceptions) and Jackson (four). The Bears are allowing only 19.2 points a game, the league’s second-lowest total.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Bears at MetLife Stadium
“Their defensive backs are good, and they’re in the right spots, and they’re taking advantage of it,” Manning said. “They’ve got good ball skills, and they’re making the catches. Usually when you have a good defensive line and you get pressure, the ball has got to come out fast, or the ball is coming out high and with hits. Their offense is doing a good job of getting big leads, and scoring early, and kind of making offenses become one-dimensional, and having to throw the ball. That kind of works right in to their advantage. You got to try to keep the game tight, and mix up the run and pass, and don’t get their defensive lineman – they know you’re throwing the ball in those situations.”
Manning will certainly have to throw the ball tomorrow. He just can’t let the Bears catch it when he does.
*Amukamara, the other starting corner, was the Giants’ 2011 first-round draft choice. He played for the team for five seasons.
“I haven’t really got a chance to go against any former teammates, but I love Prince,” Odell Beckham, Jr. said. “Prince was like a brother when he was here. I honestly can say I love Prince. That’s like my guy. I have to try to stay focused while I’m in the game with him lined up across from me. He’s always been a good corner, but it’s just Prince. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s Prince, and he’s there, and he’s just a goofy guy. I’m going to have to snap that early in the game, and just be able to compete against him, and I know he’s excited as well. So, it should be fun.”
Beckham said he is “sure” Amukamara will talk trash to him on the field tomorrow.
“I’ve been in this locker room with him,” Beckham said. “He’s like a brother to me. I’m going to have to take all the joking aside when we get out there, and just go out and play.”
*The Giants trail in the regular-season series, 28-20-2, and the postseason series, 5-3. These teams first played each other in 1925, making this the Giants’ oldest active series (the Giants’ first-ever road victory was in Chicago on Dec. 13, 1925). The Giants won the most recent meeting on Nov. 20, 2016, rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit to win in MetLife, 22-16. Manning completed 21 of 36 passes for 227 yards and two scores without an interception in very windy conditions.
*The Giants, New York Cares and Hoodies for the Homeless are inviting Giants fans to help those in need by donating new or gently worn coats and hoodies to their 23rd annual Coat and Hoodie Drive when the Giants host the Bears tomorrow. Coats and hoodies can be dropped off with the New York Cares and Hoodies for the Homeless volunteers, who will be stationed at stadium entrances.