It got lost in the shuffle last week, when everyone freaked out over the way Saquon Barkley wa used in the second half in Philadelphia, but the Giants’ defense was absolutely terrible. The Eagles rolled over them in the second half. The Giants defense couldn’t get off the field.
They needed a big bounce-back game this week.
They seemed to have it. Then they blew it. And then they bailed themselves out in the end.
The Giants’ defense came up huge in overtime against the Chicago Bears, after coming up small in the fourth quarter. They cost the Giants a 10-point lead in the final two minutes, but saved the day in overtime and sealed an unlikely 30-27 win.
The final play to seal it was a great pass defense by cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Bears quarterback Chase Daniel, under heavy pressure, fired the ball deep to Taylor Gabriel on fourth down, but Jenkins swatted it away. That came one play after Olivier Vernon had a sack and forced fumble. And it was one of many big plays by the Giants’ defense during the game. They had a pick-six by linebacker Alec Ogletree on the second play of the game, and a huge forced fumble by cornerback B.W. Webb and recovery by safety Sean Chandler that appeared to seal the game with 2:19 left in regulation.
It’s what happened after that, though, that was so maddening. The Giants scored a field goal to build their lead to 10 points with 1:49 remaining. But the Giants’ defense fell apart. Daniel led the Bears 64 yards in seven plays and just 36 seconds for a field goal. Then the Bears recovered an onside kick (when Giants safety Curtis Riley missed a block) and the Bears went 45 yards in seven plays for a game-tying touchdown.
It was made even worse by the fact that the touchdown was set up by a pass interference penalty on Webb in the end zone (a questionable penalty on what sure looked to be an uncatchable pass), and that the Bears scored on their version of the “Philly Special” with a pass thrown by running back Tarik Cohen.
How the Giants’ defense could look so good for so long and then fall apart so quickly when it mattered has been the story of their season. But at least this time they managed to put it back together in overtime to come away with a win.
Here are more takeaways from the stunning win that improved the Giants to 4-8 …
- Eli Manning (19 of 35, 170 yards, one touchdown, one interception) did not look sharp early in this game, flirting with interceptions several times in the first half. He did throw one, where it looked like he and Odell Beckham Jr. had a miscommunication. Bears CB Kyle Fuller cut in front of Beckham, who appeared to cut on the ball late. It comes off looking like a terrible throw that shouldn’t have been made, but the look of confusion on the face of Manning made it clear something happened on the route that he wasn’t expecting.
- Manning and Beckham have seemed out of sync all season long, and this game might have been the clearest indication of that. Beckham wasn’t open a lot, and Manning seemed to be forcing the ball to him, but it wasn’t working. Beckham only caught one of the first seven passes thrown his direction and three of nine overall.
- Beckham did come up with the play of the game — a 49-yard touchdown pass from him to Russell Shepard. It was an end around where he pulled up to throw. But what made this play is that when he pulled up, he first put the ball down and faked like he was going to run, then he backed up and threw. That froze the linebacker who was pursuing him, and it must have frozen the rest of the defense because there wasn’t a Bears defensive back anywhere near Shepard down the field.
- Barkley had another strong game with a lot of usage. He rushed 24 times for 125 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards. His 29-yard run on the first play of overtime put the Giants right on the edge of field goal range right away.
- Ogletree has had a frustrating season, but part of his value is how smart a player he is. He reads offenses so well, and his teammates say he’s good at putting them in the correct positions. Occasionally it leads to a big play too. He read Daniel’s eyes perfectly on the second play of the game, stood his ground and got his hands up to knock down the pass, pick it off and return it eight yards for the pick-six. He had another interception later on a leaping, one-handed grab (although he needed his second hand to actually pull it in).
- That said,, the Bears had a lot of success on running plays that started to the right, then cut to the left. It’s hard to know for sure who on defense was responsible for contain, but on most of those runs it looked like LB Olivier Vernon and Ogletree both got blocked out of containment positions. When the Bears ran those plays there was a lot of room to run.
- Khalil Mack is a monster and definitely wrecked some plays for the Giants, but overall the Giants — left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Chad Wheeler — did a decent job against him. Mack had one of the Bears’ three sacks.
- The Bears seemed to Jenkins early, and that proved to be a mistake. Jenkins had two early pass breakups and had a good game overall. This time last year, Jenkins looked like he was quitting on his team. That hasn’t happened this year. He proved that on the last play of the game.
- On the play before the Bears’ second touchdown, LB Kareem Martin made a great play to get into the middle and stop RB Jordan Howard from reaching the end zone on third down. That would’ve been huge, but on fourth down the Bears went for it and brought in their 6-foot-5, 324-pound defensive tackle Akeem Hicks as their Refrigerator Perry-like battering ram. The Giants — Ogletree in particular — gave it all they had, but he was an unstoppable force and scored on a 1-yard plunge.
- Kicker Aldrick Rosas sure is making a case that he belongs in the Pro Bowl. He added a franchise-record, 57-yarder to his resume right before halftime and a 37-yarder later to seal the game. For someone who was so shaky in his first year last year, he has become almost automatic.
- In a potentially significant development that didn’t matter at all on Sunday, rookie Kyle Lauletta was the backup quarterback while veteran Alex Tanney was inactive. So much for all that talk this week about the Giants playing Tanney, after Shurmur wondered why the media was jumping over him. Manning is likely to remain the Giants’ starter the rest of the season, but they are going to try to get Lauletta into a game at some point over the final four weeks.