1. Danieal Manning: Having developed a reputation for questionable decision-making over the first four years of his career, Manning has put together a string of solid performances this season. Manning led the Bears with 11 tackles against the Giants, including eight solo stops. On special teams, Manning averages 24.4 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 21st in the NFL. Manning still needs to make more of an impact against the pass. But it’s refreshing to see Manning play relatively error-free in that area, while making significant contributions on special teams and against the run.
2. Julius Peppers: Peppers deserves some of the credit for the swagger permeating Chicago’s defense. Peppers forced his second fumble of the season on Sunday, when he knocked the ball out of quarterback Eli Manning’s hands, in addition to scoring his second sack of the year. Opponents continue to struggle at containing Peppers, which frees up teammates such as Israel Idonije, who recorded his first sack of the year against the Giants. Peppers was officially credited Sunday with two quarterback hits, and a pass breakup. Yet he still hasn’t produced what you’d call a signature game, which we believe comes on Sunday when Peppers lines up against the Panthers, team that originally drafted him.
3. Chester Taylor: Too bad Taylor isn’t used more, because when the team remembers to call his number, the running back produces for the most part. Taylor touched the ball just three times against the Giants -- all runs -- and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt. Although Chicago considers Matt Forte to be the lead back, it should consider increasing Taylor’s involvement, given his ability (especially in pass protection) and the team’s financial commitment to him. The Bears have shown a few formations that feature both Forte and Taylor in the backfield. But they’ve utilized them sparingly. That needs to change.
1. Offensive line: Center Olin Kreutz took a no-excuses outlook on Sunday’s disaster, which is the right way to look at things. The rest of the offensive line needs to do the same if it expects to bounce back from allowing an NFL-record nine sacks in just one half against the Giants. The absence of left tackle Chris Williams appears to be taking a major toll on the cohesiveness of this unit (partially because of all the shuffling the team has done), which has been further depleted due to injuries to guards Roberto Garza and Lance Louis. Kevin Shaffer, J’Marcus Webb and Frank Omiyale have filled in admirably at tackle, but the club needs to return the offensive line to its original state. Enough with the experiments.
2. Mike Martz: The club’s new media policy doesn’t allow assistants to speak after games, which seemed especially convenient after the Bears’ loss to the Giants. Of the team’s 27 first-half plays on offense, Martz called passes on 20 of them, which seems to fly in the face of Lovie Smith’s stated run-first philosophy. The Bears passed on 11 of their 15 snaps in the second quarter and, coincidentally, Jay Cutler was sacked on seven of those plays. Given all the punishment Cutler was taking, was it impossible for Martz to adjust the playcalling to compensate, which in turn, could possibly have kept the quarterback in the game?
3. Brandon Manumaleuna: The Bears paid Manumaleuna, a blocking tight end, more than $6 million guaranteed to use him essentially as a sixth offensive lineman. So far things haven’t panned out, and his shaky blocking performance against the Giants highlights a rocky start by Manumaleuna, which includes offseason knee surgery that led to him playing in less than half the offensive snaps leading into Sunday’s game, in addition to a $22,000 fine for missing meetings. The Giants used just four rushers Sunday to rack up most of their sacks (eight) against five Bears offensive linemen. Manumaleuna was supposed to be the sixth protector on a couple of those plays, and defenders routinely blew past him with little resistance.