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Gameday Live 4: Bears at Giants

Good evening, Giants enthusiasts! Big Blue look to bounce back after a tough two games in Week 4 in the NFL!

I’m not Christopher Mascaro, and I’m actually not big into exclamation points, but I thought I’d start things the same way. No point in messing with tradition. I’m Laura Albanese and I’ll be bringing you live game action as the Giants (1-2, 1-1 at home) take on (pick one) Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler of the Bears (3-0, 1-0 on the road) at the Meadowlands.
 
The Giants are going into this one with a whole lotta baggage, namely:
 
1. After kicking off the season with a win at home, the Giants have struggled mightily. A lot. There was the super-sloppy 29-10 loss to the Titans last week that included five personal fouls (two of ‘em really late hits by OT Kareem McKenzie, who Tom Coughlin benched whilst choking on his own rage), and a 31-7 whooping by the Colts in Week 2. Especially against the Titans, the Giants have come off as unsteady and undisciplined – and Coughlin has been hearing all about it.
 
2. If the losing record and the possibility of a rapidly declining season doesn’t put enough pressure on the Giants, the halftime festivities might.
 
3. Talking about a persistent past: The Bears have never lost a regular season game at the Meadowlands. Of course, that was that Giants Stadium. Only time (or this game) will tell if a change of real estate really makes that much of a difference.
 
Amusing athlete quote of the week:
 
DE Justin Tuck said this is not a "must-win" for the Giants. "I've seen teams win eight games and make the playoffs, so if I do my math right, we have about six more losses before we have a must-win game," he said.
 
Yes. By all means. Skirt by with the bare minimum. This is how champions are born.
 
Keys to the Game:
 
- The Giants will be going to battle without their best shield. Mathias Kiwanuka, who leads the team in sacks, has the world’s worst stiff neck and that could mean big things for the Giants, who will see a big dent in their fourth-best in the NFL pass rush.
 
Mind you, most teams have been running the ball against the Giants (what with their defense ranking a tantalizingly bad 26th against the rush), but Kiwi’s absence could be just what Jay Cutler needs to go wild.
 
The Giants will probably look to Osi Umenyiora to pick up the slack despite missing practice with a swollen knee. If the defense can hold up despite the huge hole, the Giants have a shot. That means big games from Jason-Pierre Paul and Clint Sintim. Bet you didn’t expect to hear that preseason.
 
- Which Jay Cutler are you going to get? Cutler comes from the gunslinger school of QBing and, up until this year, was almost as prone to the interception as he was to the deep pass. Not so much these past three games, though. He’s averaged around 290 yards per game, with six TDs, but only two picks. He’s been sacked eight times, though.
 
The question a lot of people are asking is how much influence new offensive coordinator Mike Martz will have on Culter. So far, he's gotten lucky, but Cutler, who had a league-high 26 picks past year, doesn't exactly believe in being conservative. Martz is one of the best play designers in the game, but is just as likely to tell Cutler to throw it up in the air and say a little prayer. Despite only having two interceptions, don't for a second think that Cutler has reverted to the Mike Shanahan-inspired judgement he showed with the Broncos. He's still throwing off that back foot and letting her rip. In other words, he's due. 

- Speaking of Cutler, he has a prime target in Matt Forte. The RB has struggled on the ground, but has definitely given Cutler a great receiving option out of the backfield. He’s got 14 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns so far.

 - If the Giants do manage to cut down the pass (see: fourth best), how will they manage against the run? The team is 26th in rushing defense but they’re only really allowing 3.8 yards per carry. The Bears, meanwhile, are ranked 29th rushing. Believe it or not, if the Giants have an advantage, it’s there. Especially since….
 
- Julius Peppers. Did you think I was gonna forget him? Child, please. He may crush Eli. Repeatedly. This is my analysis of the situation. You want more? Ok. Look for the Giants to double-team Peppers, who anchors the Bears’ NFL-leading rushing defense. It’s probably the biggest mismatch of the game (unless we’re counting Matt Dodge against Devin Hester – do as Coughlin says and just kick it out of bounds, kid).
 
Peppers is too fast for either David Deihl or Kareem McKenzie, and the Giants will need to give him extra attention if they’re going to neutralize him (Deihl, especially, has been unimpressive and making a case for getting moved out of left tackle). In fact, the O-line has struggled big recently – Manning’s already been sacked seven times and his speed (or, you know, lack thereof) is absolutely no match for Peppers without proper protection. Let’s not forget that Eli’s best target might be feeling a little woozy. Manningham said he was fine, but I guess we’ll see. (And yeah, I said best)
   
There’s a lot more to talk about, but the game, it is upon us.
 
I’ll be here to take you through, quarter by quarter…
 
Giants Inactives:
Ramses Barden
Bruce Johnson
Keith Bulluck
Phillip Dillard
Shaun O'Hara
Will Beatty
Mathias Kiwanuka
Rocky Bernard
 
Bears Inactives:
Caleb Hanie
Major Wright
Joshua Moore
Kahlil Bell
Chris Williams
Desmond Clark
Corey Wootton
Marcus Harrison
 
Final: Giants 17, Bears 3
 
Players of the Game -
Ahmad Bradshaw: 23 carries, 129 yards, 1 TD (longest rush: 25 yds)
Justin Tuck: seven tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble
Osi Umenyiora: three tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble
 
Fourth Quarter: Giants 17, Bears 3
 
Bears Scoring Drive: Four plays, seven yards, 0:52, Gould field goal (40 yards)
Giants Scoring Drive: Two plays, 32 yards, 0:50, Jacobs run (2 yards, Tynes kick good)
Sack Counter: 10
 
The defense that's been doing so well got a little overenthusiastic to kick off the fourth quarter. A pick to kick of the quarter was erased by two penalties (unnecessary roughness - declined - and roughing the passer). They made good three plays later, as Thomas intercepted a long pass to Olsen to put the Giants at their own 8. Two nice runs for Bradshaw (5 yards, and a short pass by Manning that he took for 11 yards) in the Giants first drive of the quarter, but he looks a little hobbled. Jacob's fumble on the Giants 33 is recovered by the Bears, who convert the 40 yd field goal four plays later. Giants lead, 10-3.
 
Some stats to keep you warm: Bears have 18 yards passing (76 total) with 10 minutes left to play. Bradshaw, meanwhile, is now three yards short of the 100-yard mark. Which will quiet some hand-wringers out there who were concerned. (Y'all know who you are)
 
Key Plays: Bradshaw takes the ball at the Chicago 45 and seems primed to being going all the way. He goes up the middle, to the six, but get denied by Bowman, who swats the ball out of his hands with 7:07 left to play. Bowman recovers the fumble for possession. The Giants defense striked again and the Bears are forced to punt on three plays, setting up the scoring drive.
 
Jacobs scored on a 2-yard scramble off right guard and Tynes kick is good. The score was set up by Manning's 30-yard pass to Nicks. Giants lead, 17-3.
 
The Bears are hemorrhaging QBs. Collins goes down and is escorted off the field (I'll update as soon as I hear something) and Caleb Hanie comes in...and gets sacked three plays later.

Third Quarter: Giants 10, Bears 0

Giants Scoring Drive: Eight plays, 90 yards, 5:18, Bradshaw run (thee yards, Tynes kick good)

Well...Cutler's out of the game with a concussion. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. Todd Collins is in at QB for the remainder of the game. History alert, brought to you by the stat pages at NFL.com. Collins' last game against the Giants was a 22-10 Redskins win. Per the write-up: "The difference was that Todd Collins got big yardage on his successful throws, 20.75 yards per completion), while Eli Manning only got 10.2 yards per completion." He was 8 for 25 for 166 yards. Meanwhile, what up with Giants special teams? They haven't had any big punt returns all year and are hurting against the Bears. Reynaud has four returns for an average of 1.2 yards. I will give them this: the winds (seem to be) brutal out there. Those kicks got some hangtime.

File this under Stat of the Game (behind those nine sacks): The Bears have -5 passing yards with 6:50 left in the third quarter.

Overheard in the Press Box: "You could give both these teams Ex-Lax and they wouldn't run." Vivid imagery. That's why they get paid the big bucks. Both teams are averaging around 40 to 50 yards with 5:00 left in the third.

We have movement! Manning's 21-yard pass to Nicks on 2-and-17 was good for 1st down on the Giants 34. Bradshaw brings it home four plays later, breaking two tackles for the three-yard TD. Tynes' extra point is good despite the 5-yard penalty for a false start. Key plays of the drive: Manning's 28 yd pass to deep left to Beckum (to Chicago 28) and, a play later, Bradshaw's 25-yard run off right guard to bring them to the 3-yard line.

HALFTIME:

Key first half players -

Justin Tuck: five tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble

Osi Umenyiora: three tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles

Ahmad Bradshaw: 10 carries, 44 yards

Eli Manning: 7 of 14, 63 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs

Lawrence Tynes: 1/2 FG (Made: 22 yds, Missed: 38 yds)

Jay Cutler: 8 for 11, 42 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT

Ring of Honor inductees: Tim Mara, Wellington Mara, Jack Mara, Bob Tisch, George Young, Steve Owen, Jim Lee Howell and Bill Parcells. The list also includes Hall of Famers Mel Hein, Ken Strong, Tuffy Leemans, Emlen Tunnell, Frank Gifford, Rosie Brown, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, Y.A. Tittle, Harry Carson and Lawrence Tayor. Other players: Al Bozis, Charlie Conerly, Dick Lynch, Joe Morrison, Pete Gogolak, George Martin, Phil Simms, Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber.

Ring of honor induction ceremony. They booed Tiki, y'all. Come now. He's the team's all-time rushing leader. Everyone had a Tiki jersey growing up. I know he's lost a lot of his luster, but...c'mon. In other news, Lawrence Taylor got some of the loudest cheers of the night...right behind Strahan and Amani Toomer. Ahem. (LT wasn't there, however. Legal woes will do that.)

Second Quarter

This team is 3-0? Really? The Giants are going to town on Cutler, who was sacked twice in the first five minutes (that's five total, for those playing at home). Osi's sack at 9:59 ended up as a forced fumble, which he recovered at the Chicago 29. But again the G-Men wasted the solid defensive performance. Two big plays on that possession: Moore tackles Bradshaw on 3rd and 10 for a loss of two and a five-yard penalty on Snee for the false start. Cutler has been sacked two more times for a total of eight. The pass rush has been fantastic, and Cutler, who (as we mentioned above) loves to hold on to the ball and go for the long pass, has been especially suseptible. Remember that Martz's offensive schemes tend to involved a lot of downfield dramatics, and that extra effort is allowing Osi, Tuck and co. to have their way with Cutler.

The Giants haven't been making the best of it, however. With Peppers down his neck, Eli is being pressured on his drop backs and hurrying his throws. Dodge seemed unnerved on the punt attempts (that touchback early in the quarter did no one any favors), but mostly made up for it with an acceptable 56-yard punt to the Chicago 10. Hester did his thing, but a flag on the play stuck the Bears in horrible field position with a little les than 2:00 to play in the half.  Cutler is sacked again with a little less than a minute to play (Aaron Ross, loss of seven). That's a total of nine. The NFL single game record is 12.

First Quarter:

Giants 3, Bears 0

Giants Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 76 yards, 5:08 minutes, Tynes field goal (22 yards)

Key players on the drive: Manning (4 for 7, 48 yards) and Bradshaw (5 carries for 34 yards). The Giants had 1st and 10 on the Bears 12 and again showcased how much they've struggled in the red zone. Manning's incomplete pass to Bradshaw out of the shotgun seemed to take the wind out of the Giants sails. They turned to the rush, but Bradshaw was clogged up the middle by Anderson and Manning for no gain. Manning's short pass to Smith set up the field goal. 

Jay Cutler threw his first pick of the game on a short pass to Olsen at 3rd and 5 on the 29 on the next drive (Thomas with the interception and one yard return). If the Giants last effort was anemic, this one was flat disappointing. Five plays for eight yards (five yards coming on a flag on Cutler). The Giants O-line is predictably suffering and Eli felt the pressure with two incomplete passes in the short drive. Tynes 38 yard field goal skewed left.  

The Giants are struggling, but the Bears are hardly faring better. And, while we're at it, so much for the Giants missing their sack specialist. Cutler's been brought down twice in the first seven minutes - a sack by Umenyiora at 13:21 for a loss of four and a big one by Chris Canty with the Bears threatening at 1st and 10 at the 50 yard line.  

 The Bears have managed one first down and six yards rushing (25 total yards in the quarter), despite having the ball for about the same amount of time. The Giants D is, again, the bright spot so far. Thomas has three solo tackles and an interception.

 

 

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