What the New York Giants Must Do to Right the Ship Against the Chicago Bears
Coming into Week 4 of the NFL season, the New York Giants may already be at a crossroads.
It might seem silly to make such a statement at such an early juncture, but following their embarrassing performance last weekend against the Tennessee Titans, the Giants need something positive to keep this season from gaining momentum in the wrong direction.
In 2007 the Giants rallied behind coach Tom Coughlin, who was under intense scrutiny for his dictatorial approach to managing his team.
That year, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl against an undefeated New England Patriots team.
This season, Coughlin and the Giants coaches have been criticized by Antrel Rolle, a free agent that signed a mega-deal with the team this past offseason, for being too strict.
The team promptly came out and showed that maybe they don't have enough discipline, or that Coughlin is on the verge of losing this team altogether.
That's why a strong performance this week against the Bears is a necessity if Coughlin hopes to keep his job and the Giants have any hope of competing for a playoff spot.
Even if they lose, the Giants must show some fight to gain momentum. Going 1-3 in the first quarter of the season is not a death sentence for the team's playoff hopes, not in the NFC East this year.
But going 1-3 with back-to-back embarrassing performances is a quick way to foment mutinous attitudes and send the season down the tubes.
Here are a couple of things the Giants must do if they hope to put up a fight against the Bears, as well as a prediction of the game's outcome.
Catch the Ball
This may seem like a rudimentary thing to list as something a team must do.
But when your quarterback has thrown six interceptions, most of which came off of passes his receivers bounced into the open arms of defenders, it becomes necessary to list such a basic thing.
Besides the interceptions, Eli Manning is having a rather stellar season. In three games, Manning has completed 67 of 102 passes, good for a 65.7 percent completion rate, for 810 yards and 7.9 yards per attempt. The Giants 253 passing yards per game is good for ninth in the league.
Correspondingly, the Giants trio of receivers have put up good numbers as well.
Steve Smith leads the Giants in catches with 18, Mario Manningham leads the team in yards with 238, and Hakeem Nicks leads the the team with four touchdown catches.
But those pretty numbers don't matter for squat if the receivers continue to drop passes in the worst of all places: their opponents' hands.
The Bears have been vulnerable against the pass this season, surrendering 279.3 yards per game (28th in the league).
It is absolutely crucial that the Giants' receivers hold on to the ball so they can capitalize on this mismatch to the fullest extent.
Keep Their Cool
Yet again this is a pretty rudimentary thing to list, but after last week, it is sadly another basic thing that must be listed here.
Football is a contact sport. When things get physical you can't go thumping people around the field after the play, Kareem McKenzie.
The Giants were flagged 11 times last week against the Titans; five of those penalties were personal fouls.
After McKenzie was flagged for personal fouls on two consecutive drives, Coughlin benched him.
On Monday McKenzie was at least apologetic, calling his behavior "despicable."
That apology won't be good enough if he and the Giants don't clean up their game and avoid costly penalties.
They shot themselves in the foot time and time again last week and they can't afford to let their tempers get the better of them against a strong, physical Bears team.
Keep Up the Strong Pass Defense
Last season the Giants defense was porous, especially their pass defense.
They allowed 31 touchdown passes, which was tied for second most in the league.
So far this season the Giants have played good pass defense, allowing just 169.3 yards per game (fourth in the league).
However, the Giants have not exactly faced an offense that has come at them in the passing game as aggressively as the Bears are likely to do.
In Week 1, they faced the Panthers with the now benched Matt Moore under center.
In Week 2, they faced Peyton Manning and the Colts; the damage was limited only because the Colts offense was so efficient Manning didn't need to tear them apart through the air.
Finally in Week 3, they faced Vince Young, who is not necessarily a prolific passer in this league.
Peyton Manning's stats from the Week 2 game provides the evidence needed to make any Giants fan uneasy about the defense: 20/26 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Add the Giants inability to stop the run this season (136.7 yards per game; 26th in the league) and the supposedly improved defense under new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will be put to the test this week against a strong Bears offense.
Get Somebody Other Than Mathias Kiwanuka to Pass Rush
In 2007, the Giants' Super Bowl-winning defense led the league with 53 sacks. In 2008 they saw a drop-off but still posted a respectable 42 sacks, good enough for sixth in the league.
Last year when the Giants defense struggled they only tallied a mediocre 32 sacks, tying them at 18th in the league.
For a team that has excessively collected defensive lineman, it is pertinent that they produce sacks at a greater rate than they have been this season, especially against the mediocre offensive line of the Chicago Bears.
Unfortunately, Mathias Kiwanuka is the only Giant who is making his presence felt on the pass rush. Of the Giants' six sacks, Kiwanuka has four of them.
The Giants need Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and first round draft pick Jason Pierre-Paul to get some pressure on Jay Cutler. This will go a long way toward helping the Giants secondary limit the Bears pass attack.
It would also help force turnovers.
Even though Jay Cutler has played well early on in the season, he can still be forced into committing turnovers under pressure.
Last weekend against the Packers, Cutler might have set the record for interceptions overturned by penalties.
That's Reby Sky, New York Giants superfan.
Maybe she will be at the game this Sunday.
Regardless, the Giants home-field advantage should not be discounted heading into the game against the Bears.
Despite the 3-0 record, the Bears are the beneficiary of a terrible call against the Lions and a terrible game from everybody on the Packers not named Aaron Rodgers.
It just isn't right to say the Bears are for real yet. They are staunch against the run, but they haven't shown the proclivity to stop their opponent's passing game and their offensive line is questionable.
Meanwhile, this is a Giants team that has been playing much worse than they probably are.
Last week's 29-10 loss against Tennessee was the result of 11 penalties, multiple turnovers in the red zone, and a continued case of the dropsies.
It's hard to straighten everything out in just one week, but the Giants have no other choice. If they lose at home and drop to 1-3 they will be on the verge of falling apart.
Therefore, the Giants will respond this weekend at home. They will not be able to run on the Bears defense, but they will be able to pass.
On the defensive side of the ball the Giants should struggle to contain the Bears offense, but they might just get some pressure on Jay Cutler and force some turnovers.
This game should turn into a shootout with the Giants prevailing and bringing their record to 2-2 after handing the Bears their first loss of the year.