In a classic confrontation between the NFL’s most resistable force – the Chicago Bears offense – and one of its most movable objects – the New York Giants defense – the force won. Well, it didn’t lose, anyway.
“A win is a win,” said linebacker Leonard Floyd, whose fourth-down rush of Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones forced an incompletion that sealed the 19-14 Bears victory. “No matter how you get it, as long as you get the win, that’s all that matters.”
At this point, that's absolutely the case for the Bears. Their win over the Giants, aided by a pair of New York field-goal misses inside of 45 yards, gave the Bears two wins in the last three games. Regardless of opponent quality, that has to pass for progress at this point of a supremely disappointing season. Of the Bears’ (5-6) five wins, two have been over two-win teams (Giants, Redskins ) and two have been over three-win teams (Broncos, Lions).
Sunday’s result kept the Bears in at least the mathematical playoff picture heading to Detroit for the Thanksgiving game against the Lions, although the teams just above the Bears (Eagles, Rams) hold head-to-head wins over them. The schedule has favored the Bears with back-to-back, get-right games, finishing the third quarter of a sagging season against the Giants and Lions, two teams that finish Sunday with a combined record of 5-18-1.
Surviving against one of the NFL’s bottom feeders at least briefly stanched the 2019 bleeding for a desperate team that has been largely unable not only to put together enough plays to comprise a quality football game, but also even able to come up with reasons why not.
“We scored more points than them, but it’s not good enough.” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said in an apt summary that eschewed false positives. “It’s not nearly good enough.”
Clearly not nearly good enough, particularly because the Bears don’t have any more Giants or Redskins on their schedule this year. After Detroit, the Bears face three division leaders (Cowboys, Chiefs, Packers) and the eight-win Vikings to finish the season.
Against the Giants (2-9), who were in the process of losing a seventh straight, only three of 11 opponents totaled fewer yards than the Bears’ 335. Only woeful Washington (3) managed fewer than the 19 points the Bears managed against New York on Sunday. Six of 13 possessions went three-and-out against a defense that had been allowing 41 percent third-down conversions.
In the plus column was the Chicago defense that held its fourth opponent in the last five to 17 or fewer points. In the not-good-enough column was the reality that the Bears lost two of those four games.
Mistakes still dominate
The overarching fact is that the Bears in virtually all probability lose Sunday to anything but a team as non-funtioning as the Giants. They were essentially the same team that lost five straight and that's inconsistent, disorganized and self-destructive.
The 335 yards were the second-highest offensive output of the year. But major mistakes cost the Bears more than 100 yards and at least 10 points:
- Tight end Ben Braunecker, wide open after his defender fell down, dropped a touchdown pass from the New York 29;
- Trubisky failed to loft a pass sufficiently to get over New York linebacker Alex Ogletree, resulting in an end-zone interception in the second quarter;
- A 60-yard completion to wideout Allen Robinson was nullified by a hands-to-the-face flag on center Cody Whitehair.
Trubisky’s first-half passer rating was a dismal 50.1, an ugly half marred with drops and poor throws in an all-around inept offense against a defense allowing an average opposing passer rating of 103.5. For the game Trubisky finished with a rating of 69.0, on 25-of-41 passing, a 32-yard touchdown pass to Robinson, a rushing touchdown and two interceptions.
That was good enough for another case of coach trying to build up quarterback, finding a positive of some kind, any kind.
“I really want to give him credit for running the show, and being able to run the offense,” head coach Matt Nagy said, “and I think that we have different personnel that come in and out. It's not easy. So we want to try to help him out as much as we can, but probably a lot of that stuff [you (media)] don't see, but he did a really good job with that.”
Running the show and different personnel groups should be Quarterbacking 101, but this has not been an easy season for Trubisky, who has generally regressed back toward that 101 level.
Trubisky got little help, beginning with a run game that averaged 2.5 yards per carry, the eighth time in 11 games that the Beras have averaged less than 3.5 yards per rush.
For their part, special teams did the offense and defense no favors for most of the afternoon. The day began with Eddy Pineiro banging the opening kickoff out of bounds for a Giants start at their 40 (to prove it was no fluke, Pineiro pulled a PAT wide-left in the third quarter). Besides punt coverage allowing a 40-yard return in the second quarter. Pat O’Donnell mishit a 13-yard punt in the second quarter to give the football to New York in the Chicago end.
New York ineptitude prevented the gaffes from resulting in points but added burden on the defense having to stop four first-half possessions starting no worse than the New York 40. This had a trickle-down, field-position effect on the offense as well.
Nagy said last week that Trubisky had shown significant improvement over the past two games, citing decision-making as one piece of evidence. Regardless of how much of that was fact vs. trying to build up Trubisky, certain of the quarterback’s decisions Sunday raised eyebrows.
Trubisky decision-making problems surfaced almost from the outset, when he inexplicably forced a third-and-2 throw to a tightly covered Allen Robinson instead of an open Braunecker, curling open beyond the first-down marker. The result was yet another in a season-load of three-and-out’s, particularly on third-and-short, and impotent opening series for the Bears.
With a chance for a rare first-quarter score, Trubisky threw within reach of New York linebacker Ogletree at the back of the end zone. The resulting interception, Trubisky’s third either in the end zone (Green Bay, New York) or just short of it (Washington, 1-yard line), was the more egregious because it was not the first of the season for a third-year quarterback. He was victimized shortly before that by a dropped pass to Braunecker, left wide open in the red zone when his defender slipped.
At the start of the fourth quarter Trubisky badly underthrew Javon Wims, resulting in a second interception and an opportunity that the Giants were incapable of exploiting.
“We can't have the turnovers,” Trubisky said. “Got to be better on 3rd down (4-for-15). Got to the better in the red zone (1-for-4). Enjoy the win, but quick turnaround this week obviously playing on Thursday, so we've just got to find ways to get better, improve and quit making mistakes, especially myself.”
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