NFL Nation: 2013 Week 6 NYG at CHI

Terrell Thomas: WR Marshall pushes off

October, 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- It was something of a mild surprise that Terrell Thomas drew a starting outside cornerback assignment for the New York Giants on Thursday night in Chicago. Thomas had played the slot corner position for the first four games of the season and didn't play a single defensive snap Sunday against the Eagles. Trumaine McBride had started that game opposite Prince Amukamara and in place of the injured Corey Webster.

But on Thursday, it was Thomas and Amukamara starting, and that meant Thomas had to match up much of the night with 6-foot-4, 230-pound Bears wideout Brandon Marshall. Thomas was covering Marshall on one of Marshall's touchdown catches and said the big man pushed off.

"Definitely. He does it all the time," Thomas said. "I talked to the refs before the game about it. He's a big, physical guy and they let him get away with it. I had my hands on him, but I couldn't make a play on the ball because I got thrown away."

Thomas was especially upset because he felt a double-standard was being applied when Giants safety Antrel Rolle got called for defensive holding on a Bears third-down play that put the game away with 1:42 left on the clock.

"If you're going to call the game aggressive, call it the whole game," Thomas said. "Don't wait until the last minute and then throw the flag. They were pushing off the whole game and the refs weren't calling it."

Hey, Thomas may be right. But this is one of those things you don't ever seem to hear from the team that won. Just saying.
CHICAGO -- The Bears missed out on a scoring opportunity in the first quarter of their 27-21 win Thursday night over the New York Giants when they elected to go for a fourth down instead of taking what would have been a chip-shot field goal for Robbie Gould.

The three points the Bears bypassed could’ve come back to haunt them had the Giants scored a touchdown on their fourth-quarter drive that ended at the Chicago 26 on Tim Jennings' interception at the 10. But Bears coach Marc Trestman felt confident about the call.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Marc Trestman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images"We were hoping to score a touchdown, obviously," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of a failed fourth-down conversion.
“I did. I did," Trestman said. “We were hoping to score a touchdown, obviously.”

Instead, Jay Cutler's short pass to Brandon Marshall fell behind the receiver, who got his hands on the ball, but appeared to have three defenders in the vicinity. The incompletion came on fourth-and-2 from the New York 4, and was made possible by Zack Bowman’s interception and 24-yard return.

“I felt our defense was in a place that if we didn’t make it, they’d have to go the distance,” Trestman said. “If we did [make it], we could get some energy on Zack’s interception. Didn’t happen that way. The good part about it [is] we bounced back. We came back on what was really our official first drive, went down and scored.”

But only after Jennings picked off an Eli Manning pass on New York’s ensuing drive that was intended for Rueben Randle, and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to put the Bears up 7-0 after the extra point.

Prior to the failed fourth-down conversion, the Bears had converted 80 percent of fourth-down attempts through the first five games, which represented the best percentage in the NFL.

“Yeah, yeah, we talked about [the possibility of going for it on fourth down] this morning,” Cutler said. “[I] like the call. We’ve just got to get it in front of ‘B’ a little more. Maybe we’ll get the first down there and maybe he breaks the first tackle and gets in. [I] like the confidence doing it at home, and we started a free possession for us.”
Tim JenningsAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastTim Jennings' first interception he returned for a TD. His second one preserved the Bears' win.
CHICAGO -- In the past, clinging to a six-point lead with 5:21 left and the opposing team taking possession at its own 11-yard line, it would have seemed almost certain the Chicago Bears would hold on to win.

Yet that wasn’t the feeling Thursday night at a tense Soldier Field, and likely won’t ever be this season with the way Chicago’s defense continues to struggle.

During that frantic sequence, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs broke loose for 14 yards on first down. Three plays later, Eli Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for an 11-yard gain. Two more running plays picked up 25 yards, and by the 2:02 mark, the Giants had advanced all the way to the Chicago 35.

“It wasn’t pretty out there,” said cornerback Tim Jennings, arguably the game’s most valuable player. He preserved Chicago’s 27-21 victory with an interception at the Bears' 10-yard line with 1:54 remaining, and he had put a touchdown on the board in the first quarter with a 48-yard interception return.

“We got off to a fast start. We didn’t finish strong, though. We’ve got to go back and figure it out. We didn’t play well. Of course we’re happy with the win. But just going back and watching, it’s not going to be a pretty thing to watch. It’s a learning tool. We’ll get something out of it.”

The Bears certainly need to.

Chicago captured its 10th consecutive victory in a game in which it scored a defensive touchdown. Since 2005, the Bears are 24-2 when they score on defense. It's an impressive statistic. But the primary objective on defense is to stop the opponent from scoring -- something Chicago hasn’t done all season.

The Bears are allowing 26.8 points per game, and haven’t yet limited an opponent to fewer than 21 points. Since 2010, the Bears are 15-6 when they hold teams to 17 points or fewer. During that span, when they allow 18 points or more the Bears are 18-15.

“Our guys, we missed some tackles,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We didn’t make some plays, certainly, we need to make down the road here.”

Jacobs finished the game with 106 yards and two touchdowns, marking the third time an opponent rushed for 100 yards or more against the Bears.

The Giants came into the game with the NFL’s lowest conversion percentage (26.2) on third down, yet skyrocketed that number up to 64 percent against the Bears. Manning completed four passes for gains of 20 yards or more, including two connections for 30-plus yards.

“We’ve got to work on third downs,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “Third downs have been the bane of our defense this year.”

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Bears struggled to bring down Giants running back Brandon Jacobs all evening long.
Injuries, too. Already hurting up front due to season-ending injuries to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton and Nate Collins, the Bears also played Thursday night without starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who missed his second consecutive game, and Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman.

Chicago’s starting front four featured defensive end Corey Wootton inside at tackle alongside Landon Cohen, who joined the team on Sept. 29, as well as defensive ends Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.

By the time the Giants attempted to mount their late rally, the Bears had already lost two more starters: linebackers in D.J. Williams (chest) and James Anderson (back)

“You’re right about these injuries,” safety Major Wright said. “But it’s the NFL? What do you expect?”

Obviously not what observers in the past had become accustomed to from a Bears defense in a crucial situation with advantageous field position. But in the end, Chicago’s defense found a way to seal the victory thanks to two interceptions from Jennings and another from Zack Bowman, who filled in for Tillman.

“We want to be out there on that field around that time,” Wright said. “We’ve got some special players, and any time during a game, we can get a turnover -- by anybody. We knew something was gonna happen, and it was Tim.”

But the truth is, the Bears can’t always rely on that.

CHICAGO -- You cannot undo what's been done, and Tom Coughlin isn't the sort of man to waste his time trying something so foolish and futile. The New York Giants are 0-6 for the first time in 37 years. There's no fixing that. There's nothing the head coach or anyone else can do to make it better. In front of Coughlin lies a miserable 10-game expanse of which he and the Giants must make the best. Beyond that, likely, lies a decision about if, at the age of 67, he wants to stick around and be part of a rebuilding project for a franchise he's led to two Super Bowl titles in the last seven years.

How does Coughlin approach all of that, from the vantage point of the first 0-6 start he's ever had as an NFL head coach? The same way he'd approach it if he were 6-0 -- with a laser-like focus on what he can control and what's right in front of him.

"You go back to work," Coughlin said late Thursday night, after the Giants played their best game of the season and still lost 27-21 to the Bears at Soldier Field. "You have to put everything you can into preparation and try and go win a game, just like you'd do under any other normal circumstance. We're all sick of the losing, but we put ourselves in this position. So we keep striving to improve in the areas we need to improve and to come up with ways in which we can be better."

That's what's on Tom Coughlin's mind at 0-6. You want to talk and wonder and speculate about his future? Go right ahead, but please forgive him for declining to join you. That's not who he is or how he operates. And for that reason, he's probably the best coach the Giants could have to manage them through a season that's over three weeks before Halloween. All that's left for these Giants is pride -- the ability to get themselves up for a game every week and put forth a respectable, professional effort. They are not a contender, right now, for anything but the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. The only remaining question of significance is whether they will quit the way you see teams quit every year when it's over, or if they'll play hard until the bitter, meaningless end. You'd better believe that matters to Coughlin, and because it matters to him, it matters to his players.

"We're always confident, and that hasn't changed and it won't change," Giants guard Kevin Boothe said. "This stinks, but we have a lot of proud guys in here that have won championships. That's the culture of this organization and of this team, to never give up."

Coughlin's mission over he final 11 weeks of this season will be to maintain that. He's not getting fired, now or at the end of the season. And he doesn't sound as though he has any interest in firing anyone himself. Asked if the 10 days between this game and the next might allow him to "make changes," he scoffed.

"What changes would we want to make?" he asked. "I don't see it. I'll look at everything. I'll evaluate everything."

But he's not likely to start firing coordinators in-season, because Coughlin doesn't believe in angry firings as the way to fix anything. Blood for blood's sake is a frustrated fan's instinct, and there are surely coaches, owners and general managers in the league who would operate that way if caught in these circumstances. But the Giants' coaches, owners and GM aren't like that. They're going to swallow this, cope with the fact that the team they put together is a terrible one, then go back to work in the offseason and fix it.

Meantime, though, they're not sitting on their hands. GM Jerry Reese has added pieces since the start of the season, and Brandon Jacobs, Jon Beason and John Conner all played very well Thursday night. Reese deserves a lot of blame for this mess, but he's looking for ways to make it more manageable. Coughlin is, too, and the work ethic they're showing in the face of futility filters down to a locker room that's maintaining its pride and professionalism under circumstances that would crush a lot of teams.

"We've just got to keep playing," said Jacobs, who rushed 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. "This is a lot of adversity that's been placed in our path, but the only way we can overcome it is to stay together and keep working to get a win."

It's the only thing Coughlin knows how to do, and you can be certain it's the only thing he's thinking about. What lies beyond December is a complex, murky end of an era. If Coughlin wants to come back and coach the Giants in 2014, he'll know that he's doing it without Justin Tuck, without Hakeem Nicks, without David Diehl. Probably without Chris Snee, his son-in-law, which means without his grandchildren greeting him in the hallway and the locker room after home games. A lot will be changing with these Giants in the next offseason, and when the time comes, Coughlin's going to have to decide whether or not he wants to come back and help put the pieces back together.

But those are thoughts and discussions for another time. As much as people always want to talk about Coughlin's retirement plans, to this point he has none and doesn't want to spend any time contemplating them. That just doesn't make any sense to him. He has work to do and a game to coach next week.

Giants' Brandon Jacobs, reborn

October, 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- Dormant all year, the New York Giants' running game sprang surprisingly to life in Thursday night's 27-21 loss to the Bears. Veteran running back Brandon Jacobs, filling in as the starter for the injured David Wilson, rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. As a team, the Giants had 123 rushing yards in the game, which is 43.3 percent of their league-worst total (284) from their first five games.

With fullback John Conner heavily involved for the first time as a lead blocker, and with the Bears playing with backups in place of injured starters at defensive tackle, Jacobs found room to run the middle of the Chicago defense and took advantage of it.

"I just did what was asked of me," Jacobs said. "I did what they brought me here to do -- go out and play running back for the New York Giants. I felt good out there, even though without a win it doesn't mean anything. But I told the guys before the game started I was going to give them everything I've got on every snap."

Whether or not the performance is repeatable is a complete mystery, of course. The Giants have 10 days off before their next game, a "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Vikings on Oct. 21. Wilson could theoretically be back for that, though it seems unlikely as he's getting his neck looked at by a specialist next week and could have a serious injury that keeps him out for many weeks or even the rest of the season. Running back Da'Rel Scott injured his hamstring late in the game and could be out several weeks as well. So it's likely the Giants will be in the market for a running back of some sort in the coming days. But what Jacobs showed them Thursday, with Conner's help, is that they do have the ability to run the ball -- something the first five games of the season definitely did not reveal.
CHICAGO – Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould accepted responsibility for triggering a verbal confrontation with teammate Devin Hester during the first half of the Bears’ 27-21 victory Thursday night over the New York Giants.

NFL Network cameras caught Gould and Hester exchanging words on the Bears’ sideline after New York’s Jerrel Jernigan returned a Gould kickoff 46 yards with 5:12 remaining in the second quarter. In the video footage, Hester appeared to be the aggressor in the confrontation, but Gould said in the locker room after the game that he was to blame for the incident, citing his below-average kickoff as the catalyst for the argument.

"I love Devin like a little brother," Gould said. "It was just [that] my emotions got in the way. I was at fault. I was the wrong party in that. I love him like a brother. Once it was over, it was over.

"I let my emotions get the best of me. I’m a competitor just like he is. We both want to win. I don’t want to put my teammates in a situation where I hit a [bad] kickoff like I did. There are no hard feelings. It’s like a fight with your little brother.”

Gould approached Hester on the sideline and patted him on the shoulder after Hester returned the opening kickoff of the second half 28 yards.

“We’re just trying to get better and trying to pump each other up,” Hester said. “Everything is cool, most definitely.”

Gould and Hester each reached milestones in the win against the Giants.

Hester passed Glyn Milburn to become the franchise’s all-time leader in kickoff-return yards (4,643), returning three kicks for 73 yards on Thursday night. And Gould’s 52-yard field goal in the third quarter marked the 12th consecutive field goal he’s made from 50-plus yards, which ties Minnesota's Blair Walsh for the longest streak in NFL history. Gould also connected on a 40-yard field goal and is a perfect 10-for-10 on the season.

“Devin got a record tonight, I got a record tonight,” Gould said. “We both had really good games. I’m happy at how well he did tonight and for his record. It’s pretty impressive. There are no hard feelings. Like I said, it’s like a fight with your little brother.”

Locker Room Buzz: Chicago Bears

October, 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- Observed in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 27-21 victory over the New York Giants:

Injured linebackers: Dressing at adjacent lockers, linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson wondered about their future availability, as both suffered injuries that forced them out of action. Williams, who sustained what the team called a chest injury, said he won’t speak to the media “until I find out what’s wrong with me.” Anderson said he won’t know the extent of his back injury until Monday.

Push-broom mustache: Bears tackle Kyle Long grew a mustache that resembled the business end of a push broom for the game in honor of defensive tackle Nate Collins, who suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season. “The mustache, it represents the sorrow I feel for not being able to see my buddy Nate Collins on the field every day,” Long said. “I’ve spoken to him in regards to the facial hair, and he likes it and he appreciates it.” Long considers Collins a brother. His actual brother, Chris Long, a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, is Collins’ best friend. Chris and Collins were roommates at the University of Virginia.

Added message: Typically, the last two words on the dry-erase board in the locker room are “Bear Down.” That message was again there Thursday, followed by “Be a Monster.”

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

October, 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Giants' 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears:

Emotional Eli: After his latest three-interception game raised his league-leading total to 15 for the season, Giants quarterback Eli Manning took the blame for the loss. "I feel like I'm not doing my part," he said. "That's the frustrating part. I feel like our guys are fighting hard, and guys are doing their parts, and I need to start doing mine."

Down with the ship: Safety Antrel Rolle said he's sticking to his belief that the Giants can win the rest of their games, even though he said that two weeks ago. "People are counting us out, and I don't blame them," Rolle said. "Outside looking in, I'd probably count us out, too. But we can't. We have to count ourselves in."

Injury update: Running back Da'Rel Scott injured his hamstring late in the game, and after the game wore a protective sleeve on his right leg while he received help getting dressed. He also had crutches propped near his locker. Wouldn't look for him to play again any time soon. The Giants will probably be hunting for a running back again next week.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 10, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-21 victory over the New York Giants on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

What it means: The Bears snapped a two-game skid, putting them in prime position to move to 5-2 at the bye if they handle business on Oct. 20 against the Redskins.

Stock watch: Cornerback Tim Jennings wins the MVP of this game. He put points on the board with a pick-six in the first quarter, and sealed the win with another interception with 1:54 left to play.

Questionable call: Zack Bowman put the Bears in ideal field position when he picked off Eli Manning, who was being pressured by Isaiah Frey on the nickel blitz, and returned the ball 24 yards to the New York 12. Chicago could have taken an early lead less than three minutes into the game, but Bears coach Marc Trestman elected to try to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Giants' 4, with Jay Cutler’s pass falling behind Brandon Marshall, who appeared to have three defenders in the vicinity. Prior to that incompletion, the Bears had converted 80 percent of their fourth-down attempts this season, which represented the best percentage in the NFL. But in that situation -- the team’s first drive of the game -- why not take the three points? Luckily for Chicago, on New York’s ensuing drive, Jennings picked off Manning and returned it 48 yards for a TD to put the Bears up 7-0 after the extra point. The return touchdown marked Jennings’ second of the season.

Marshall erupts: During the NFL Network’s pregame show, Marshall called himself a “caged lion,” in anticipation of New York’s struggling defense. “I want the ball; I want it a lot,” Marshall said. “You go two or three games getting two or three catches, and you look at the defense we’re going against … they have to pay.” They did, and dearly. Marshall, who had expressed frustration about his lack of receptions earlier in the week, caught nine passes for 87 yards and two TDs.

Speaking of pick-sixes: The Bears are now 24-2 in games since 2005 in which they scored a defensive touchdown, including 10 consecutive wins under those conditions. It seems unfathomable a team could rely so heavily on turnovers to change the tide of games, but the Bears have proven consistent at it. They’ve got it down to a science.

What’s next: Some much-needed rest for the Bears, who held out Charles Tillman and Stephen Paea from this game. They’ll play only one game in the next 24 days: on Oct. 20 when they travel to Washington before the bye.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

October, 10, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Giants are 0-6 for the first time since 1976, when they started 0-9. They did, however, do a bunch of things in this game they hadn't yet done in this lost season. They ran the ball well, racking up 123 yards on 26 carries. They converted 7 of 11 third downs, after converting only 16 of 61 in their first five games. They got defensive stops when they needed them. They kept penalties to a minimum. They avoided becoming the first team in league history to allow 30 or more points in their first six games. It was the best the Giants have looked this season by far, and they still couldn't come up with their first win.

Stock Watch: Brandon Jacobs and John Conner, UP. The Giants were averaging a league-worst 56.8 rushing yards per game through their first five games, but they rushed for 56 on Thursday night in the first quarter alone. With David Wilson out with a neck injury, Jacobs was named the starter and had a great deal of success all night running behind the blocking of fullback Conner, who saw his first significant action since signing with the team, and against the backups the Bears were using at defensive tackle.

Playing from behind: This was obviously far from the Giants' worst game of this miserable season, but turnovers did hurt them again as they have all year. Eli Manning threw interceptions on each of the Giants' first two possessions. The first didn't end up costing them, since the Bears inexplicably went for it on fourth-and-2 instead of kicking a short field goal, but the second was returned for a touchdown that put the Giants in a 7-0 hole. And the third, which came with two minutes left in the game and the Giants driving in Chicago territory down just six points, iced it for the Bears. The interceptions raised Manning's league-leading total to 15 and the Giants' league-leading turnover total to 23. No other team in the league has more than 12.

What's next: The Giants get 10 days off before their next game, which is Oct. 21 on "Monday Night Football" against the Minnesota Vikings at MetLife Stadium. Because they played the early game in Week 6 and their bye is in Week 9, the Giants will play only two games in the next 30 days.
CHICAGO -- Things started about as poorly as they could have started for the New York Giants against the Chicago Bears here at Soldier Field. Eli Manning threw interceptions on each of the Giants' first two possessions, raising his league-leading total to 14, and the second was run back for a touchdown by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings. That got the Bears out to an early 7-0 lead that could have been worse if Chicago had elected to kick an easy field goal after the first interception instead of going for it on fourth-and-2.

And yes, the Giants trail 24-14 at the half, the Bears get the ball back to start the second half and the strong likelihood is that the Giants leave here with an 0-6 record after becoming the first team in NFL history to allow 30 or more points in each of its first six games.


There have been some encouraging signs. For example, with fullback John Conner paving the way, Brandon Jacobs rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on eight carries in the first quarter alone. The Giants' first-quarter total of 56 rushing yards nearly equaled the league-worst average of 56.8 they brought into the game. The Bears are banged up at defensive tackle and seemed to be daring the Giants to run the ball, and the Giants have been able to do it. The threat of a running game has also helped Manning and the passing game, as the touchdown pass to Rueben Randle that tied the game at 14-14 came on play-action.

The Giants also are 4-for-6 on third downs, which is significant since the were 16-for-61 on third down for a league-worst percentage of 26.2 through the first five games.

Jon Beason, who got the start at middle linebacker in his second game since coming over from Carolina in a trade, also showed a lot in the early going. He's the kind of physical, athletic presence the Giants' linebacking corps has lacked, and you can see why they wanted to work him in so quickly. He did get caught up on the first of Jay Cutler's touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall, following Alshon Jeffery and leaving Marshall open in the end zone, but that had a lot to do with a well-designed play by the Bears. Beason has looked good overall.

Still, the Giants trail by 10 on the road and have already turned the ball over twice. All is most definitely not well. As much as Manning seems to want to keep throwing to Randle, he appeared to be part of the problem on both of the interceptions. Hakeem Nicks still isn't separating from receivers. And of course, the dormant Giants pass rush is getting nowhere near Cutler. The Giants remain a very bad team with a ton of problems, but they have at least shown some signs of competence in the first half of this game.


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