In the first game back from the bye week, the Giants (2-8) look to end the team's six-game losing streak on Sunday against the Chicago Bears (4-6) at Soldier Field. The two teams met last season in Week 13, when the Giants emerged with the overtime victory, 30-27.
Here are three keys to victory for the Giants:
1. Ball security
Protecting the football will continue to be one of the most important aspects of the game for the Giants. This is especially true for rookie QB Daniel Jones, who despite having success throwing the ball in his rookie campaign, has had trouble holding onto it. Jones has lost nine of 13 fumbles, both of which lead the league. In each of the last three games, Jones has had a fumble returned for a touchdown by the opposing defense.
"Like Coach (Shurmur) alluded to yesterday, I think that it's hard to put your finger on one thing," Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula said of Jones' fumbling issues. "If you're standing back there with the ball and you've got guys that can get to the ball and are really good at it, it's going to be tough. You want to keep two hands on the ball until you're throwing it. We work those drills. We want to get the ball out faster, for sure. We want to protect better, for sure. We want to get open quicker… We have to have that ball secure no matter how hard you're trying to make the first down, make the play. That ball is the most important thing we do, is protect that football. That has to be our mindset."
The good news: The Bears have just one fumble recovery since Week 5, tied for the second-lowest mark in the NFL.
2. Win field position battle
The special teams are likely going to play a big role in Sunday's game. Chicago enters with two explosive players. Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return yards with 621 on 21 returns (29.6 yards per), including a 102-yard touchdown against the Saints in Week 7. Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen is second in the league with 235 yards on 22 punt returns (10.7 yards per), including a 71-yard return in Week 5 against the Raiders.
"You know, you never want the opponent to be comfortable," Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey told reporters this week. "You always want to put yourself in the best position so that you can be successful. In Chicago, with that field and being right on Lake Michigan, you know balls aren't going to go out of the back of the end zone routinely. You're going to have to deal with wind, you're going to have to deal with 35-40 degrees, there might be snow, you just never know. The ball doesn't fly as far in the cold air and against the wind, obviously. So, you're just got to have a plan and just execute your plan."
The good news: Giants punter Riley Dixon ranks 10th in the league in gross average (46.5) and 10th in average punt return yards allowed (6.2), and Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas is tied for 11th in the league with 31 touchbacks.
3. Defend the pass
It is no secret the Giants have struggled to defend the pass this season. They enter Week 12 ranked in the bottom-10 in completion percentage, yards per game, yards per pass attempt and passer rating. A big reason for that is the number of rookie and second-year players in the lineup.
"You have some vets who are continuing to work and really trying to help our young players," Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher said Thursday. "Our young players who are coming in each day, they are still building their professional process, they're still building their professional resumes, but they are working. They are taking the coaching and you see those guys getting better. When you went to and looked at it, man, there are some really good snaps in there. We're either not on the same page, or not executing a technique or not playing with good eyes or good leverage… We continue to work on those things."
The good news: The Bears rank 32nd in yards per pass attempt, 30th in passing yards per game and 23rd in passer rating.
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