5 Things To Watch For: Bears-Giants
October, 1, 2010
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMatt Forte has scored three touchdowns on pass receptions, but he's averaging just 2.8 yards on the ground.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection with 269 career tackles, Harris reacted diplomatically to his benching, which came as the result of low production through the first two games. But as Harris said on Thursday, "It's how you come back from it." Harris responded well to being sidelined in each of the past two years. Suspended a game in 2008 for conduct detrimental to the team, Harris returned to post five sacks in his next six outings. The defensive tackle came back from a benching last season to contribute a sack and nine tackles over the next three weeks. Against the Giants, there's a good chance Harris' snaps will be limited. So he needs to make the most of them to get back into the staff's good graces.
Resurgent rushing attack
The Bears are one of the league's top play-action passing teams, with Jay Cutler completing 9 of 11 for a 144.3 passer rating on those plays, according to ESPN Stats and Information. But you've got to wonder how long the Bears can maintain success off play action without the legitimate threat of a ground game. Lovie Smith pointed out the club's rushing woes earlier in the week, saying the unit needs to improve for the Bears to continue their winning ways. Running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor each average 2.8 yards per carry so far this season, but encounter a Giants rush defense which is allowing 136.7 yards per game. So Sunday's game appears to be Chicago's best opportunity to date to get its rushing attack on track.
Martz vs. Fewell
They've coached together in St. Louis, and battled head to head during their subsequent stints at other teams. So it's safe to say Bears offensive coordinator and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell know one another pretty well. What should be interesting, though, is which coach does the best job of taking advantage of that familiarity. Fewell expects Martz to attack the Giants' technique through the offense, adding "it's not as much a coordinator's matchup with him." Martz, meanwhile, says, "[The Giants are] 11th in the league, but could very easily be top three or four on defense; they've gotten better every week. They're a physical group, they're disciplined. They cancel gaps in the run game." Fewell and Martz have met twice since 2006, with Martz's team winning both outings.
Cutler in the face of New York's rush
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler isn't rattled easily, based on his production through three games in the face of the pass rush. Against four or fewer rushers, Cutler ranks fifth in the league (behind Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, Phillip Rivers and Vince Young), having completed 68.9 percent for a 109.9 passer rating. Bringing five or more rushers doesn't affect Cutler's numbers much, either. In those situations, Cutler completes 60 percent of his attempts for a passer rating of 109.3 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Interestingly, despite reputation, the Giants aren't the formidable pass-rushing squad they used to be. The club is currently tied for 13th in the league with six sacks. But it's important to note the Giants have picked off three passes this season, in addition to forcing and recovering three fumbles.
Numerous Bears threats on special teams
Devin Hester appears to have found his groove in the punt return game, which might come as a recipe for disaster to the Giants' reeling special teams. Giants rookie punter Matt Dodge has been told to kick the ball out of bounds away from Hester, but directional punting could be a challenge for the rookie, who doesn't qualify as experienced at such a technique. It's also worth mentioning that Hester returned a missed field goal 108 yards in 2006 for a TD against the Giants. Hester isn't the only threat on special teams. Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning average 29.7 and 26.2 yards on kickoff returns, respectively. Defensive end Julius Peppers has also been a weapon on special teams. If the club struggles offensively or defensively, the Bears know they can turn the entire game with just one play on special teams.