A 3-8 record through 11 games is not exactly what the doctor ordered for the New York football Giants in their first season with head coach Pat Shurmur, but the team still has its collective eye on the prize entering a matchup on Sunday with the NFC-North leading Chicago Bears (8-3).
And if the 2018 version of the Monsters of Midway are in town, that means get ready for a disruptive effort from one of the best defenses in the league — not to mention dark horse candidate for league MVP, linebacker Khalil Mack.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning told reporters on Wednesday that Mack “stands out” because of his versatility on defense.
“He does it all,” Manning said. “He does a good job getting sacks, causing fumbles, interceptions. He has great technique. … and just a nose for making plays and being around the ball. He’s very disruptive and you just got to have a plan to try to keep him from taking over.”
The Giants (3-8) and Bears (8-3) will face off with records that mirror the trajectory of their respective seasons with first-year head coaches at the helm.
For the Giants and Shurmur, it is a season with many missed opportunities. Whereas the Bears and head coach Matt Nagy would likely be just fine to see more support from the defense for second-year signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky.
Through 11 games this year, the Bears lead the league in interceptions (20) and are tied for the league lead in total takeways (29 with a +14 differential). That means opportunities are few and far to come by against this sack-happy team (sixth in the league with 34 sacks entering Sunday’s contest).
And Mack’s line through nine games this season: eight sacks, five forced fumbles, an interception and one defensive touchdown. That all adds up to one tough equation for opposing offenses lining up against the Bears on Sundays.
Manning said the combination of the Bears’ defensive line and secondary creates a difficult matchup for any opposing offense.
“Usually when you have a good defensive line and you get pressure, the ball has to come out fast, or the ball is coming out high and with hits,” Manning said. “It’s a big factor. Their defensive backs are good. They’re in the right spots, and they’re taking advantage of it.
“Their offense is doing a good job of getting big leads, and scoring early, and kind of making offenses become one-dimensional. That kind of works right into their advantage.”
Running back Saquon Barkley reiterated the point that the Bears possess a challenging defense, not to mention Mack who may be the “best defensive player in the league”.
“We’re all competitive here so we’re excited to go against that challenge and try to get another win at home,” Barkley said Wednesday. “The only thing I can say is [Mack is] as good as advertised. He’s going to be a challenge this week. We’ve just got to come out ready to compete.”
The Giants rookie halfback said the remaining weeks of the season can still be important for a young team that is still learning how to put all the facets of the game together.
“I know we’re not satisfied about our record right now, but [we’ve] still got five games to get better and continue to work,” Barkley said. “For myself, same thing, same motto there — learn and improve every single game.”