An ugly, turnover-filled football game was a thing of beauty for the previously struggling New York Giants.
On a night when the Giants (2-2) paid homage to the team’s new Ring of Honor at halftime, Big Blue appropriately got back to the old-time basics of Giant football with a dominant defensive performance and a solid running game during a 17-3 victory over the Chicago Bears (3-1) at the New Meadowlands Stadium before a national television audience on NBC’ Sunday Night Football.
Overcoming three turnovers and an unproductive offense in the first half, the Giants used ten sacks – including an NFL record nine in the first half — and a rushing game led by running back Ahmad Bradshaw (game-high 129 yards on 23 carries, 1 TD), to ultimately take control over what had been the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFC.
The win, at least for one week, quelled a lot of doubts about where the Giants’ 2010 season was headed, especially defensively.
New York entered the game allowing a league worst 31.5 points per game over its past 14 contests, while going just 4-10 since a 5-0 start to last season, and it did so without its sack leader, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who sat out the game with a neck injury after notching four sacks in the season’s opening three weeks.
So, it was a perfect time for the rest of the Giants’ defense to step up and post the most sacks the Bears allowed since official sack totals started being kept in 1963, while making Chicago’s offense look anemic all game.
It was also important that the Giants put that kind of pressure on Bears’ starting quarterback Jay Cutler early and often, since New York’s defense didn’t get much help from its offense in the first half.
The Giants managed just a 3-0 halftime lead, four first downs, and 98 total yards, despite starting three first-half drives in Chicago territory (two inside the Bears’ 30 yard-line), only to come away with nothing each time (missing a field goal, punting, and fumbling).
The way the Giants’ defense controlled the game however, 3-0 at halftime, felt like 20-0.
Cutler, who entered the game with 290.0 passing yards per game and a 9.6 yards-per-attempt average (to lead all NFL starters), was held to just 42 yards passing, competing 8 of 11 attempts, with 0 TD and 1 INT). He left the game for good, with a concussion, after the Giants’ ninth sack, off a blitz by cornerback Aaron Ross with 58 seconds left in the first half.
Later, with 4:25 left in the game, linebacker Michael Boley got the Giants’ final sack, and forced Cutler’s backup, Todd Collins out of the game with yet another vicious hit from New York’s relentless pass rush.
Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora led the Giants with three sacks apiece, while defensive tackle Barry Cofield (1½ sacks), and linebacker Jonathan Goff (½ sack) added to the concussion-inducing sacks inflicted by Ross and Boley.
Umenyiora’s three sacks came within the first 20:16 of the game, at which point the Giants had half of their ten sacks, already matching the career high suffered by Cutler while with Denver, in a loss at Houston, on 12/13/07.
Of course, numbers don’t always tell the story in football, but in this game, they did, for the Giants’ defense:
- The Bears had just 22 total yards of offense and two first downs in the opening half.
- Prior to its last possession of the half, which began with 1:41 left (and which ended with Ross’ sack), Chicago had just four yards of total offense.
- Bradshaw rushed for 19 yards more than the number of total yards (110) allowed by the Giants.
- The Giants had more sack yards (63) than total passing yards allowed (51), while holding the Bears to -13 passing yards in the first half.
- Cutler suffered more sacks (9) than he completed passes (8).
- The Giants had almost as many interceptions (2) and forced fumbles (3 – the Bears lost one) combined, as first downs allowed (6).
- New York held Chicago to 0-for-13 on third-down conversions.
With their defense continuing to hold Chicago in check, New York got its offense going enough in the second to pull away fairly comfortably.
The Giants scored 14 of their 17 points, had 235 of their 372 yards, and 14 of their 18 first downs; quarterback Eli Manning (18 of 30, 0 TD, 0 INT) passed for 132 of his 195 yards; and Bradshaw rushed for 85 of his 129 yards, all in the second half.
After the teams traded two punts each to start the third quarter, the Giants drove 90 yards in 5:18, taking a 10-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Bradshaw with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
The score was set up by completions of 21 yards from Manning to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (game highs of 8 catches and 110 yards) and 25 yards to tight end Travis Beckum (his only catch) before a 25-yard run by Bradshaw on the play before his touchdown.
Chicago, still with just 50 yards of total offense early in the fourth quarter, finally caught a break. A fumble that was officially charged to Manning but which was the fault by Giants’ running back Brandon Jacobs (6 rushes for 62 yards, 1 TD) at the Giants’ 29 yard-line set the Bears up for a Robbie Gould field goal that trimmed the Giants’ lead to 10-3, with 10:58 left in the game.
Bradshaw then looked like he’d score from the Chicago 36 yard-line, but the ball was punched out and recovered at the Bears’ 1 yard-line. That play marked the first time in the coaching career of Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin that one of Coughlin’s teams had at least three giveaways in four straight games.
But, the turnover led to a three-and-out and a Bears’ punt, before a quick strike for the Giants’ final score.
Taking over at the Chicago 32 yard-line, Manning on the next play, threw a ball short up the right side for Nicks, who made a great inside move to the ball for a 30-yard reception, which set up Jacobs to score on a 2-yard touchdown run, to put the game away, with a 17-3 Giants’ lead with 4:31 left in the game.
After the game, Umenyiora and Bradshaw each admitted being motivated by the 22 members of the Giants’ Ring of Honor in attendance.
And, for one of the very few times since the first five weeks of last season, they and their team, played like it.
It’s just the latest of many examples of how quickly things can change a lot in the NFL.
Earlier in the week, Giants fans were in desperation, widely viewing Sunday night’s game as something of a season-saving, must win. Now, with a win over the Bears, coupled with Washington’s win in Philadelphia on Sunday, the Giants, though only a .500 team, reach the one-quarter mark tied for first place in the NFC East with the 2-2 Redskins and Eagles, a half-game ahead of the 1-2 Dallas Cowboys, the consensus preseason division favorite.
Considering the Giants’ early season struggles, tied for first place, just a game off of the conference lead, is a great position to be in after four weeks in what was considered by many to be the NFL’s toughest division – a division that right now, is without winning team, in a conference which thanks to the Giants, now lacks an undefeated team.
However, before the Giants feel too good about their second win of the season, they must now find consistency on a week-to-week basis. That search continues next, with what figures to be a very tough test at Houston (3-1) next Sunday, at 1pm EST.