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Scouting Report: Eye On the Chicago Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants and Chicago Bears, iconic franchises enduring disappointing seasons, will attempt to kick off successful stretch runs when they meet Sunday in Soldier Field. The teams have lost a combined 11 of their last 12 games. Chicago has dropped five of six games and is 4-6. The Giants, coming off their bye, have lost six in a row and are 2-8. The teams last met on Dec. 2, 2018, when the Giants earned a 30-27 overtime victory in MetLife Stadium. This will be the Giants' first visit to Chicago since Oct. 10, 2013, when they lost a Thursday night game, 27-21. The Bears lead both the regular season (28-21-2) and postseason series (5-3).

What is the Bears' biggest strength?

A defense that has difference-makers at every level and has excelled despite the team's record. Chicago is fourth in the league in points allowed (17.4 a game). The Bears are eighth in total defense (322.9 yards allowed per game), eighth vs. the run (95.6) and 10th against the pass (227.3). The defense includes nine starters who helped the Bears win the NFC North title last season, three of them all-pros – outside linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. Linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are the team's top two tacklers, though each missed a game.

Which player is key to the Bears' offense?

Sixth-year pro Allen Robinson has emerged as a true No. 1 receiver in his second season with the Bears. He has been targeted 86 times, or about 25% of the throws by quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel, which is among the NFL's highest percentages. Robinson leads the team with 57 catches and 633 yards and has scored three touchdowns. He is a big, smooth and savvy route runner with excellent downfield ball skills.

What is the strength of the Bears' offense?

Speed. Running back Tarik Cohen is only 5-6 and 191 pounds, but he can fly. Last year, he caught 12 passes for 156 yards vs. the Giants (and threw the game-tying touchdown pass on the final play of regulation). Wideout Taylor Gabriel can stretch the field. Cordarrelle Patterson is the team's gadget guy. He lines up out wide or in the backfield and the Bears try to get him the ball in space so he can use his speed. The assortment of fast players enables head coach and play-caller Matt Nagy to use numerous packages and personnel groupings. The issue for the Bears is that hasn't resulted in the results they'd like. Chicago is 28th in the league in scoring (16.9 points a game) and 30th in both total yardage (262.7) and passing yardage (182.8). The poor production has forced Nagy to adopt a more conservative approach; in the last three weeks, he has sharply reduced his use of the no-huddle offense (outside of a two-minute drill). In the first six weeks of the season, the Bears ran more than 50 plays without huddling.

Here is a closer look at the starters of the Chicago Bears for Week 12 against the Giants.

Which player is key to the Bears' defense?

Mack leads a talented and disruptive front seven and has few peers as a game-wrecker among NFL defensive players. He is second on the team with 5.5 sacks (a half-sack behind tackle Nick Williams, who has started just one game) and leads Chicago with 42 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. He also has four passes defensed. Mack has just one sack in the last six games, because opposing teams are so focused on minimizing his impact. But all that attention on Mack has helped Trevathan, Smith and fellow outside linebacker Leonard Floyd have a great impact. It's a pick-your-poison dilemma for Bears opponents. Trevathan injured his elbow two weeks ago against Detroit and is expected to miss Sunday's game.

What is the strength of the Bears' defense?

Chicago makes you earn everything, whether it's on the ground or through the air. The Bears have given up an NFL-best one touchdown outside the red zone and have allowed the fourth-fewest big plays (five passes of 40+ yards, two runs of 20+ yards). They force their opponents to methodically drive down the field to score. Chicago's secondary does a good job of keeping receivers and the ball in front of them.

Which player is key to the Bears' special teams?

It's actually players, because Cohen and Patterson are arguably the best pair of return specialists on any team. Cohen, a 2018 Pro Bowler, is second in the NFL with a 10.7-yard average on 22 punt returns, including a 71-yarder. Patterson leads the league with 621 kickoff return yards and is third with a 29.6-yard average on 21 runbacks, including a 102-yard touchdown against New Orleans. It was his seventh career score on a kickoff return, the second-highest total in history. Patterson is also an outstanding gunner who has four special teams tackles. 

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Play turnover-free football and don't let the Bears' defense control the game. The Giants' minus-12 turnover differential and 24 giveaways are both the league's second-worst figures. They've lost a league-high 14 fumbles. If they give away the ball on Sunday, Chicago's struggling offense will get to work on a short field. The Bears have a plus-four differential. Last week, the Rams needed just 17 points to defeat Chicago. Coach Sean McVay saw a Chicago offense that had trouble scoring and deployed a conservative attack (34 runs, 18 passes). Los Angeles committed two turnovers but won by 10 points. The Giants might need to follow a similar blueprint.

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears

Statistics you should know:

*In 2018, the Bears led the NFL with six defensive touchdowns (five on interception returns, one on a fumble return). This season, they have one (on an interception return by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix).

*Chicago's defense has not made as many game-changing plays as it did a year ago. Last season, the Bears had a league-high 36 takeaways. They currently have 14, including five against Washington.

*The Bears didn't make a selection in the 2019 NFL Draft until the third round. They chose Iowa State running back David Montgomery, who leads the team in rushing attempts (143, 105 more than runner-up Cohen), yards (497) and touchdowns (five).

*Chicago's defense has not allowed an opening-possession touchdown in 20 consecutive games dating back to last season. They are one of four teams (joining Baltimore, Green Bay and New Orleans) that have not allowed a first-series touchdown in 2019. But the Bears have reached the end zone just once on their 10 first drives this season.

Giants vs. Bears Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.


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