Flashbacks from the NFL Championship era filled MetLife Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Giants debuted their throwback home uniforms against the Chicago Bears, an NFC squad Big Blue faced in six separate NFL Championships before the Super Bowl’s existence. The turf was equipped with red end zones featuring the “GIANTS” nameplate planted in the middle with classic two-bar football helmets on either side.
A pair of storied franchises and a nice vintage touch from the organization: it was an old-school football type of day. And it certainly felt that way during the actual matchup, with an effective run game and superb defense headlining the 20-12 Giants win.
The Bears’ first drive of the game featured five Khalil Herbert run plays as well as two first-round scrambles for quarterback Justin Fields, who was hit late on the second one by rookie linebacker Micah McFadden. The unnecessary roughness penalty put the Bears in field-goal range, where placekicker Michael Badgley connected on a 29-yard attempt to open up the scoring.
The Giants were quick to answer, and the offense formulated one of its best drives of the season thus far. It only took six plays — which included two carries for 27 yards for Saquon Barkley — to reach the end zone. Daniel Jones executed a terrific play-fake from the Chicago 21-yard line, rolled out to the left side of the field, got a great block from tight end Tanner Hudson, and scampered to the left pylon for the score. A Graham Gano extra point put the Giants up 7-3 with just over five minutes remaining in the opening frame.
On the very next drive, Wink Martindale’s unit certainly beat itself, but not to the greatest extent. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson immediately allowed a 56-yard shot from Fields to wide receiver Darnell Mooney before a Kayvon Thibodeaux roughing the passer penalty put the Bears in the red zone. But after a Jihad Ward sack and two measly gains on Herbert run plays, the Bears settled for a 22-yard field goal from Badgley to cut the Giants’ lead to 7-6.
Scoring was bleak until about five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second quarter when Jones crossed the plane on what looked to be the same exact play as the previous touchdown. Another great play-fake from Jones and another great Hudson block sparked a six-yard touchdown run for the fourth-year quarterback. This was initially set up by a strip-sack of Fields by Azeez Ojulari, with Thibodeaux recovering the fumble. The subsequent Gano extra point put the Giants up 14-6 with 5:17 left in the half.
The Giants then made a huge defensive stop, but a fumble on a Richie James punt return in New York’s own territory eventually set the Bears up for a third field goal from 40 yards out. The score was 14-9 entering halftime.
Chicago’s offense picked up right where it left off to start the third quarter, meaning the group drove down the field but failed to put the cherry on top of a productive drive. Following pass plays of 23 and 18 yards, the Giants defense made a red-zone stand. Thus, the Bears settled for a fourth Badgley field goal to make the score 14-12 in favor of New York.
Neither offense did much throughout the rest of the quarter, with the lone score coming on a 44-yard Gano field goal. The scoring play was set up by a 40-yard defensive pass interference penalty on the Bears. The Giants had a superb opportunity to find the end zone, but a sack right after the Chicago penalty made it that much more difficult for one of the worst offenses in the NFL to score a touchdown. The Giants had to settle for three to make it 17-12 with over a minute to go in the third quarter.
From there on out, a defensive battle ensued.
The Giants offense couldn’t find the end zone and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (who stepped in for Jones while he missed a series and a half due to an ankle injury) threw a fourth-quarter pick on a deep ball down the left sideline. The offense relied on Gano yet again at the end of a 13-play drive that featured Taylor taking a hard hit, Jones trotting back on the field in evident pain, and Barkley taking a few wildcat snaps. Gano ultimately booted through a 43-yard attempt to make the score 20-12.
The Giants defense, on the other hand, forced four straight punts after allowing the aforementioned third-quarter Bears field goal.
Eventually, with just a few minutes remaining in regulation, the Giants were backed up in their own territory and went three-and-out on all run plays to force Chicago to use its timeouts. But the Bears muffed the ensuing punt, which Giants running back and special teams weapon Gary Brightwell fell on.
All New York had to do from there was chew some more clock until Gano lined up for a 37-yarder to put the game away with around 20 seconds remaining, but the ball bounced off the left upright.
Therefore, Fields and Co. had one more shot down by eight points, 73 yards from the end zone. But thanks to great coverage, Fields failed to execute the downfield passing game on the final drive. Chicago couldn’t reach the end zone to potentially tie the game and the clock hit triple-zero following about 700 laterals on the final play.
The Giants are now 3-1 to start the Brian Daboll era. Some thoughts on the win:
Run-game heroics. It was clear and obvious the Giants needed to run the ball effectively given the deficiencies of their passing attack (inconsistent quarterback, no healthy and reliable receivers, etc.).
And did they ever.
Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka utilized both their talented running back and speedy quarterback to execute a few long drives against the lowly Bears front seven.
While Barkley rushed for 146 yards on 31 carries (4.7 yards per carry), Jones ran for 68 yards and two scores. Even backup running back Matt Breida averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
Given the weak passing game, expect the Giants to attack many of their opponents on the ground the rest of the season.
Big roles for TEs. We entered this season thinking Daboll and Kafka weren’t going to value the tight end position a notable amount.
But that hasn’t been the case.
Tight ends Daniel Bellinger and Tanner Hudson combined for four receptions and 41 yards on Sunday. The latter also greatly contributed to both of Jones’ touchdown runs, executing lead blocks when Jones tucked the ball and scrambled towards the end zone.
If Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) aren’t going to stay healthy, and Kenny Golladay’s tenure is going to continue to be a disaster, Daboll will need to keep involving his pair of tight ends.
WR disaster. But there’s a reason why this tight-end room is seeing more action than expected. There’s also a reason why Jones is always tucking the ball and running.
The wide receiving corps is horrendous.
Toney and Robinson missed the game and Sterling Shepard is out for the year after tearing his ACL against Dallas last Monday. That left the Giants with Richie James, David Sills, the unreliable Golladay, and Darius Slayton on Sunday.
During the win, Giants receivers combined for 25 yards on three catches — comical marks that further prove the lack of talent within one of the more expensive position groups on the roster.
Front-seven masterclass. The Giants needed to contain the Bears rushing attack to put pressure on Fields. They also needed to get in the young quarterback’s face to disrupt his timing on passing downs.
Wink Martindale’s crew got the job done.
The Bears finished with 149 rushing yards on 32 carries, while Fields was sacked five times. Tae Crowder, Jihard Ward, Dexter Lawrence (2.0), and Azeez Ojulari recorded sacks for New York.
Another promising performance for Martindale’s guys, who needed a huge one in Week 4.