Bears vs Giants: Takeaways from Chicago's 27-21 Win over New York
The Bears were far from perfect on either side of the ball. Their offense looked great at times, but struggled to put the Giants away when they had several opportunities to do so.
Their defense was either great or horrible with very little in between. They had three interceptions—including one returned for a touchdown—but gave up 21 points to a team that came into the game averaging under 17 per game.
Ultimately, the most important thing for the Bears is that they were able to come away with the win, ending a two-game skid.
Here are some thoughts about the Bears from this game and what they can do going forward.
Major Wright Isn't the Same
A few bad games can be a fluke, but Major Wright is quite clearly not the same player he was in 2012.
Wright's performance was huge for the team's defense last year as they had a secondary that was regarded as among the best in the league. This year, however, he always seems to be late and struggles to get the ball carrier down when he does get there.
The Bears came into the game ranked 31st in giving up passing plays of over 20 yards and they gave up four more against the Giants. Part of that is the pass rush (which I'll get to later) but a large part of it has been Wright not being where he's supposed to be.
Wright is in a contract year and perhaps that's what's on his mind. He's a very talented player and showed he's capable of being an impact safety. If he doesn't start playing better, however, the Bears are going to have to consider making a change at that position and perhaps inserting Craig Steltz into the starting lineup.
Say what you will about the Lovie Smith regime, but he held his safeties accountable. It's time for Wright to either step up his play or step aside.
The Defense Is Opportunistic If Nothing Else
Considering the number of injuries the Bears had coming into and during the game, people shouldn't be too hard on the Bears defense. Still, there still doesn't seem to be much reason to think they can make the playoffs if this unit doesn't improve.
Three of the team's five highest-paid players all line up on the defensive side of the ball, but that's the area where there has to be the most concern. One of those wealthy players—cornerback Charles Tillman—didn't play against the Giants, but, as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says, they had "more than enough to win with."
Julius Peppers is the highest paid player on the team and did not make an impact against a New York Giants team who gave up 15 sacks heading into the game. In fact, he hasn't made much of an impact at all this season.
I'll get into the Bears defensive line later.
As a whole, the Bears simply gave up far too much. That said, their performance was actually admirable.
Minus their top three defensive tackles and star cornerback, they didn't get completely roasted. On New York's final drive, the Bears were also missing two starting linebackers. Yet, they kept the Giants out of the end zone.
This effort wouldn't have been anywhere near good enough against a good offense. Imagine if they were going against Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson. That doesn't matter, though, because they were good enough this week. When Eli Manning threw the ball their way, they caught it.
Going forward, the Bears have a lot of work to do. With a Thursday night game they have some extra time to prepare and get healthy. With a little luck, Tillman and Stephen Paea will be back in the lineup. They'll help, but it's pretty clear the days of the Bears having a dominant defense are in the past.
Bears Need Help on the D-Line
It's quite clear to anyone who has followed the Bears that they need to make major changes in personnel on their defensive line. This group is just not getting it done.
The Giants offensive line came into the game with 15 sacks allowed and a rushing average of just 3.3 yards per carry. The Bears, however, managed just one sack—by linebacker Lance Briggs—and allowed 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs to average 4.8 yards per carry as he ran for 106 yards.
Getting Stephen Paea back will help, but he's not a game-changer. In fact, the Bears don't appear to have an impact player along their defensive line. It's hard to be a good team when you get bullied upfront every week.
Corey Wootton is putting forth a good effort being pushed into the 3-technique, but he has no business being there. Landon Cohen was unemployed before the Bears signed him a few weeks ago for a reason. He's never been a capable starting defensive tackle, and the Bears shouldn't ask him to do it now.
They apparently aren't confident that Zach Minter can play. So, what are they going to do? If they stick with what they have, they're not going to get any better.
They're not much better off on the outside. Peppers appears to be washed up and is clearly not the same player he once was. Shea McClellin continues on his fast track to "Bustville," where he'll drink cocktails with Cade McNown and Curtis Enis.
They gave David Bass some more snaps and he finished with two tackles, but he's a seventh-round pick who didn't make the Raiders roster out of training camp.
They must have a better plan than this! They can't be putting all of their hope on Bass, right?
The Bears have a little extra time to formulate a plan. If they're going to keep winning, they're going to have to start putting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Alshon Jeffery Is Still Developing
Jeffery deserved all the praise he was given for his team-record performance against the New Orleans Saints, but now it's time to pump the brakes and remember he's still developing.
When Jeffery caught 10 passes for a team-record 218 yards against New Orleans—a week after catching five for 110 yards—it looked as if he had arrived as a top receiver.
Against the Giants, we saw he still has a lot of work to do.
Jeffery had just one catch—although it was a good one—for 27 yards against the Giants as they started giving him some extra attention. What Jeffery showed against the Lions and Saints is that if he's defended with just one mediocre cornerback, he will win that matchup.
Now he has to show he can beat good cornerbacks and that he can adjust to different coverages.
It wasn't all about the defense. Jeffery had chances to make big plays and didn't come down with the ball. He was targeted five times, but only came down with one of them. He had a chance to put the game away late as Cutler floated a deep ball to him, but it appeared he had a hard time locating it and was unable to catch the pass.
Jeffery has the potential to be a top-flight receiver, it's clear to every one. It will be a process and this is part of it. Jeffery has proven to be a quick learner, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts going forward. If he's able to continue making big plays, the Bears offense will be hard to stop.
The Bears Offense Is Close to Being Great
The production by the Bears offense has been good, but what's been really impressive is when they show what they're capable of doing.
Chicago's offense looked unstoppable in the first half as they scored on their final four possessions to take a 24-14 lead into halftime. Then, they scored just once in the second half.
Part of the blame could go to conservative play-calling as it looked like they were going to blow New York out early in the third. The Bears marched down the field before a holding call on Roberto Garza pushed them backwards. They kicked a field goal on that drive, but that was the last time they'd score.
There's no doubt the Bears offense has improved, however they have yet to put together a complete game. They finished strong against the Bengals and started strong in their next two games, but struggled down the stretch. In their two games before playing the Giants, they got off to poor starts and couldn't recover.
They made progress in this game as they moved the ball throughout the game, they just didn't finish their drives in the second half. That is the next step.
The thing we've seen is that when they click, they're a very good—maybe even great—offense. They're balanced and they have a bunch of playmakers no defense wants to deal with.
It starts upfront as whenever they protect quarterback Jay Cutler, they're successful. They did an admirable job against New York as Cutler was hit just twice and they finished with over 100 yards rushing. When they struggle to protect Cutler, the Bears offense struggles as a whole.
As the line continues to improve, they can start putting more players in routes to catch passes and their offense can truly become explosive.
The Bears are now just six games in and they seem to be showing progress. If they get to the point where they do those every game, the Bears will have one of the best offenses in the league.