Bears Proving Turnovers Will Once Again Define Their Season
The means of victory once again highlighted how important turnovers will be to the Bears' 2013 season.
In fact, the ability for Jay Cutler and the offense to avoid giveaways and the defense's continued reliance on takeaways might eventually be the defining aspects of a team that is right in the thick of the NFC North race.
On Thursday, turnovers all but decided a mostly even-contested game.
Look at the final stats for both the Bears and Giants and you'll see striking similarities across the board. Only 17 yards separated the two offenses. Both teams threw for around the 250-yard mark and rushed for over 100 yards. The two offensive lines protected their quarterback well, conversion percentages were nearly identical on third or fourth down and in the red zone, and time of possession only slightly favored Chicago.
|3rd/4th Down Efficiency||7/11||5/12|
|Time of Possession||27:05||32:55|
This was a game that tilted the Bears' way for no other reason than turnovers, of which Chicago forced three and New York zero.
The Giants' final turnover sealed the game, and was mostly representative of their 2013 season. With New York driving for what could have been the game-winning score, Eli Manning sailed a throw to an open Brandon Myers down the seam that landed directly in the waiting arms of Tim Jennings.
The interception was Manning's third of the game and 15th of the season, which leads the NFL.
The Bears also picked off Manning on each of New York's opening two drives. The first should have resulted in at least a field goal attempt, and the second saw Jennings walk into the end zone for six points. Overall, Chicago added 17 points to its league-leading 72 off turnovers in 2013.
While Manning was vintage Eli, Cutler avoided the big mistake that has plagued him so many times in the past. He calmly completed 24 of 36 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Only two weeks after handing the Detroit Lions four giveaways and 17 game-changing points off those turnovers, the Bears protected the football on offense. For just the second time this season Chicago didn't commit a turnover. The result was a fourth win in six tries and a temporary lead in one of the best divisions in football.
To keep that hold in the NFC North, Chicago will need to continue Thursday night's winning formula.
The Bears have proven this season that head coach Marc Trestman can call an efficient and balanced game on offense. The offensive line has taken big steps forward, Matt Forte remains a workhorse back and Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett have the potential to be one of the better receiver-tight end trios.
With Cutler at the helm, turnovers will always define the offense's performance. If he plays clean, the Bears can beat anyone. When he's generous, anyone can beat Chicago.
And probably no Bears defense in recent memory has been as dependent on turnovers as this one.
For the sixth straight game, Chicago allowed over 20 points and more than 340 yards of offense. The Bears defense is ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in both categories this season.
Brandon Jacobs, a 31-year-old back who came into the game averaging 2.2 yards a carry, ran through and around a Bears defensive front that is a shell of its former self. He finished with 106 of New York's 123 rushing yards. Both figures mark new season highs for the Giants, who entered Week 6 as the NFL's worst team in rushing yards per game and 27th in yards per carry.
Manning even had some nice moments throwing the football, as the Bears once again struggled mightily to get pressure with the front four.
Can the Bears count on their turnover trends to continue?
But like so many times this season, turnovers bailed out the Bears defense.
With three more takeaways Thursday, Chicago's season total is now up to 17. The rest of the NFL still has Week 6 left to play, but at the moment, those 17 turnovers lead the NFL.
This currently isn't a defense that resembles those synonymous with Lovie Smith, save for the turnovers. Offenses can move the football and score on this aging (five starters over 29 years old) and injured (missing Henry Melton, Charles Tillman and Stephen Paea) unit.
But as long as the turnovers keep coming in bunches, the Bears can compete on that side of the ball.
This is simply a team whose fortunes hinge more on turnovers—both on offense and defense—than any other in the NFL currently. Thursday night's outcome only reinforced that reality.
Avoiding the game-changing giveaways on offense and continuing to get the opportunistic takeaways on defense will determine how relevant these Bears are in 2013.
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