If Bears want to build a playoff resume, they must beat Giants
Eli Manning and the New York Giants have dropped two straight and are scrambling to find answers.
Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears are 3-0 and feeding off the confidence they’ve gained with early wins over NFC favorites.
They face each other tonight in the New Meadowlands Stadium, and the season could take a sharp turn for both teams after this one.
“That’s the thing about the NFL. Each week you never know. You’re going to get everyone’s best shot and no one’s out of it at this point,” Cutler said. “The Giants, with a 1-2 record, playing at home, we know we’re going to get their best shot.”
Cutler has helped lift the Bears past Detroit, Dallas and Green Bay by throwing for 870 yards and six touchdowns while getting intercepted twice. Chicago’s defense has done its job as well, holding opponents to 319 yards and 17 points a game.
“We’re getting key takeaways at good times, which is helping us, but we could play better,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “We’ve still got all these people doubting us, which is good. We like that. We like being the underdog. I hope we’re that way all season long.”
The Bears didn’t lock down a win last week until a 19-yard Robbie Gould field goal with four seconds left, even though Green Bay had a team-record 18 penalties and two key turnovers. And their Week 1 win was controversial when a Lions’ game-winning TD was ruled incomplete because of an obsolete rule.
The Giants, on the other hand, cruised to an easy win over Carolina in the opener, but have gotten pounded by a combined 43 points the past two weeks. They do have the league’s fourth-rated passing defense, allowing 169.3 yards a game. But they are way down the list at 26th against the run, allowing 136.7 yards a game.
Things haven’t been much better on the offensive side, either.
“You can’t afford the turnovers and the sloppy football that’s been happening,” said Manning, who has four interceptions, two coming last weekend. “We have to be more consistent, keep working and find our rhythm.”
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been a bright spot, catching 13 balls for 169 yards with four TDs, and tailback Ahmad Bradshaw has rushed for 253 yards on 52 carries with two touchdowns.
On defense, Mathias Kiwanuka has four of the team’s six sacks, and DB Antrel Rolle leads the team with 23 tackles. But as a unit, the Giants have allowed 918 yards of offense, 23rd in the league in stopping their foes. They have allowed 410 yards rushing in three games, but the Bears have only gained 216 yards on the ground themselves.
Chicago knows it still has something to prove this week.
“We said we’re a good football team, early on, and the guys are trying to prove that each week,” Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. “Our talk is that three games into the season, what have you really done? Played three games. We’re getting ready to finish up the first quarter of our season, and we want to finish it up on a high note.”
Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.