While Peyton is on track to rewrite the single season record book in touchdowns and passing yards, his brother Eli is on pace to set a less flattering record. Projected to throw 40 interceptions, Eli and the Giants offense’s turnovers are a major reason behind their 0-6 start. Their problems start with the inability to block, in the run game or pass protection, and affect every aspect of offensive football.
Compounding the lack of protection is Eli’s tendency to attempt difficult throws under pressure, often throwing off balance or prematurely. And against a ball-hawking Bears defensive, these errors rarely go unpunished. On their last drive of the game, the Giants showed why they struggle offensively and how the Bears take advantage of mistakes by using zone coverage.
Game Situation: 4th Quarter, 3:02, 1st and 10 at the CHI 49, Bears 27, Giants 21
Pre-Snap: The Giants are in their 12 personnel with WR Nicks out wide left, WR Cruz in the left slot, TE Pascoe spilt out wide right, TE Donnell in line right and QB Manning in the shotgun with RB Scott to his right. The Bears respond with their base 4-3 defense playing Cover 3.
Post-Snap: All four Giants receivers release vertically down the field leaving Scott and the five offensive linemen to block 4 rushers. Despite the numerical advantage, DT Cohen spins off RG Mosley’s block and pressures Manning as he hits the back of his drop.
As Cohen continues unfiled forcing Manning to retreat further, Donnell seam route become open in between the levels of the defense. Manning sees this but isn’t able to set his feet and accurately deliver the ball downfield due to the inside pressure. He nonetheless attempts to hit Donnell but throws off his back foot resulting in an underthrown lob over the middle of the field.
Unfortunately for Manning, Jennings, who has been watching him in his zone coverage the whole play , breaks on the throw. He undercuts Donnell and gets his hands on the ball barely missing an interception.
Summary: This play embodies the entire Giants season, one mistake compounding another. Mosely was badly beaten inside putting Manning under pressure almost instantly. Faced with a bad situation, Manning managed to make it worse by attempting to throw down the field off his back foot.
What makes it even worse is that Kevin Gilbright called the perfect play to exploit the Cover 3 zone Bears are known to run. The combination of the outside hitch, forcing the underneath zone to step forward, and the seam route in between the deep center zone free safety and outside deep zone corner, should result in a big gain down the middle.
On the Bear’s side, this play helps explain how the they force so many turnovers. By playing zone primarily, the Bears defenders are always watching the quarterback the entire play, which allows them to break on passes as the quarterback releases the ball. The Bears style of defense combined with the presence of heady veteran players explains their regular presence in the top 5 when it comes to forcing turnovers, a category that tends to vary greatly from year to year