The New York Giants’ 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest in a string of heartbreaks, as quarterback Eli Manning added three more interceptions to increase his season total to 15, tying his 2012 season total.
The most damaging of the picks was the final one which came in the fourth quarter with 2:20 left in the game and the Giants driving into Bears’ territory.
Manning’s pass intended for tight end Brandon Myers, who was wide open, was high, and Myers tried to leap into the air to grab it.
Despite getting both hands on the ball, he ended up deflecting it to cornerback Tim Jennings, who recorded his second interception of the game and who ended the Giants' hopes for a come-from-behind victory.
The loss drops the Giants to a dismal 0-6, their worst start to a regular season since 1976, when they started out 0-9.
On the bright side, the coaches have made a few personnel changes that have at least made the team a little more competitive over the last two weeks. Here are five that were pleasant surprises for New York in their loss against the Bears.
When the Giants acquired middle linebacker Jon Beason in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last week, it was only a matter of time before they were going to get him onto the field.
So after a week of trying to help expedite Beason’s comprehension of their terminology, the 28-year old was inserted into the starting lineup in the middle, and he did not disappoint.
Finishing with a team-leading 12 tackles (11 solo), the biggest differences between Beason’s play and that of Herzlich’s from past weeks were that the former was making most of his tackles at the point of attack instead of several yards down field.
Beason also did a nice job of controlling his gaps and, perhaps most importantly, he rarely found himself being caught up in the wash, which allowed him to fly all over the field to make plays.
The Giants seem to have finally found a middle linebacker that can be a playmaker for them, and as Beason continues to immerse himself in the playbook, he’ll likely see his role expanded even further.
Herzlich, meanwhile, was limited to special teams, where he very nearly recovered a muffed punt. A soon-to-be restricted free agent, Herzlich has been given the starting job three times now only to fail to hang on to it.
It took two games, but John “The Terminator” Conner, whom the Giants signed as a free agent on Sept. 25 after starter Henry Hynoski was placed on injured reserve with a fractured shoulder, finally made his debut on offense at fullback.
Conner replaced Bear Pascoe who is more of a natural tight end (and who in fact had his best game of what’s been a dismal season).
So what did the 5’11”, 246-lb Conner bring to the party?
How about some solid lead blocking both up the gut and on the edges which helped revive the Giants running game to the tune of 123 yards on 26 carries?
If that wasn’t enough, Conner was instrumental in paving the way on running back Brandon Jacobs’ two rushing touchdowns down by the goal line, an area in which the Giants have struggled to succeed most of this season.
While Conner didn’t get any chances on third down to pass protect—he’s still trying to learn that aspect of the Giants’ playbook—with the hamstring injury suffered by running back Da’Rel Scott, the Giants might just need for this young veteran to take on a larger role in ten days when the Giants host the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Conner is signed to a two-year contract, a move that was no doubt made because the Giants apparently have concerns about whether the soon-to-be restricted free agent Hynoski, who, in addition to his shoulder injury also was playing with a knee brace to stabilize his left knee that was injured during the offseason, is going to be 100 percent next year.
At the very least, if Conner continues to build on his debut performance, he’ll probably get a chance to come to camp next year and battle Hynoski for the job.
If given their druthers, the Giants no doubt would have preferred to have Wilson, their first round draft pick from a year ago, in the lineup.
Wilson, however, is dealing with a neck injury that has him sidelined indefinitely, so the coaches turned to Jacobs, who was added after Week 1 to fill the void created when Andre Brown was placed on temporary injured reserve with a broken leg.
Jacobs, 6’4, 266 lbs, did not disappoint. In his first significant game action since Dec. 11, 2011, he ran with power and speed, finishing the night with 106 yards on 22 carries, and two touchdowns. His 22 carries were his highest total since Sept. 27, 2009.
Jacobs also caught an eight-yard pass to bring his all-purpose total yards to 114.
To put that number into perspective, Jacobs’ 114 yards in this one game were just 32 shy of Wilson’s total rushing yards through five games.
It certainly didn’t hurt the running game’s production that the current offensive line configuration of right tackle Justin Pugh, right guard David Diehl, center Jim Cordle, left guard Kevin Boothe, and left tackle Will Beatty played their second game together and did so with their best overall collective performance in the running game this season.
Getting back to Jacobs, it’s unlikely that he’s in the team’s plans beyond this year.
However, if he can continue to generate the production he had this week moving forward, that should help open things up for the passing game.
McBride, who was replaced on the outside by Thomas, normally the team’s nickelback, wasn’t demoted because of his play last week.
Rather, there were concerns that his 5’9”, 185-lb size would be a gross mismatch against the Bears’ 6’3”, 216-lb receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Enter Thomas, who in the prior game (against the Philadelphia Eagles), purposely had his game snaps limited as part of a maintenance plan to not overtax his three-time surgically repaired knee.
The plan seemed to work, as Jeffrey only caught one of five passes thrown his way for 27 yards. Instead, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler targeted his other big receiver, Brandon Marshall who mostly went against cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Marshall finished with 87 receiving yards, but also had two touchdown receptions.
Thomas is only signed to a one-year deal, his future no doubt tied to how he comes through the season.
So far, so good, as he’s been quietly on a quest to become just the second NFL player—the first was Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis—to play after three ACL surgeries to the same knee.
In a move that was actually in its second week, Diehl, the veteran, has brought a sense of stability to not just rookie Justin Pugh, who by the way has been playing very well, but also to center Jim Cordle who has shown a little improvement as well.
While Diehl is still Diehl—he is still very much susceptible against speed rushers and he cannot execute a pull—he is a battler out there, and his knowledge alone has definitely been a calming presence to the two young players flanking him on either side.
Diehl, who missed the first few games while recovering from thumb surgery, is probably in his final season as a Giant.
However, it looks like this loyal veteran, the only player on the team whose arrival precedes those of Eli Manning’s and Tom Coughlin’s, will get to leave the game on his terms.