The Giants and Bears (both 2-1) will meet in the regular season Sunday with both teams above .500 entering the game for only the second time in the Super Bowl era. The first time was in Week 10, 2006, when Chicago entered at 7-1 and Big Blue was 6-2.
The only other games in the Super Bowl era when these teams met with a winning record came in the postseason – the 1990 Divisional Round (NYG 31, CHI 3) and 1985 Divisional Round (CHI 21, NYG 0). In both instances, the winning team went on to win the Super Bowl. So, it's only fitting the Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from that era on Sunday.
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
Here are three keys for a Giants victory and a 3-1 record heading into next week's trip to London:
What won games when the Giants and Bears first faced each other in 1925 is the same as this Sunday – stop the run. Chicago runs the ball more frequently than any other club with a 65-35% rush-pass differential (Cleveland is the next closest at 54-46%). The Bears had 281 rush yards last week against the Texans, their most since 283 in Week 5 in 1984.
On the other side, the Bears are surely gearing up to do the same thing as both teams are among the top five teams in rushing but the bottom three in passing yards. Saquon Barkley leads the NFL with 408 scrimmage yards and ranks second in rushing.
The dual-threat quarterbacks will also be a major point of emphasis. Daniel Jones and Justin Fields are sixth and fourth, respectively, in quarterback rushing yards since the start of 2021. Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale spoke about the challenge of facing Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Bears' rushing attack.
"Fields could be, for the younger crowd, a Cam Newton type, or for us older guys, Randall Cunningham type," Martindale said. "And those backs are explosive backs who run hard, old school hard. That offensive line, they work well together, especially in the run game. They really work well together."
Martindale added, "I want guys who can run and hit and tackle. As a unit, as all 11, we need to tackle better. We had too many missed tackles. Like I said, going against this offense, it's going to be a great test for us to see how much we've improved from Monday to Sunday."
The Giants have an average starting field position of 26.1 yards (23rd in the NFL) while their opponents are tied for the fourth-highest at 31.1. The Bears also struggle in this department, ranking 26th when they get the ball (25.8 yards) while their opponents have the sixth-highest at 30.4. There are many factors that go into field position, including "splash plays" on defense. The Giants have forced just 10 negative plays, including three sacks.
"You want splash plays," coach Brian Daboll said in his weekly interview with Giants.com. "I mean, splash plays change field position. It's playing complementary football. It was a pretty clean game in terms of turnovers all the way around (on Monday night against Dallas), except the last play (when David Sills fell and Jones' pass was intercepted). So, it's when you start getting on the other end of it when they have three (takeaways) and you have none. That makes it difficult. But that's something that we stress ad nauseum, so we'll continue to do that. And hopefully they come in bunches."
Of course, you can't discuss field position without special teams. Although kicker Graham Gano has been putting up historic numbers, the Giants allowed a blocked field goal last week and a 28-yard punt return into their own territory, setting up a Dallas field goal that extended its lead to two possessions with 5:58 to play.
Receivers need to step up
Losing Sterling Shepard, an emotional leader and longest-tenured Giants on the team, to a torn ACL will be felt in the locker room and on the field. Meanwhile, the receiving corps has been practicing this week without rookie Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) and Kadarius Toney (hamstring), leaving plenty of voids to fill. One helpful player could be Darius Slayton, who has played just 18 snaps this season.
"Slay's been a pro," Daboll said of Slayton, who led the team in receiving yards in 2019-20. "All those guys (on the depth chart) will be out there working this week, and we'll try to put them in the best positions we can. But he's been a pro, and he'll be ready to go."