"Flags are like hand grenades. It doesn’t matter who pulled the pin; we’re all done."
-- Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty after last week's loss to Tennessee, in which the Giants were penalized 11 times
That quote from Canty following Sunday's embarrassing performance against the Tennessee Titans in a 29-10 loss is probably the quote of the year. I begin with it today because it is the perfect place to start an analysis of what is important Sunday when our 1-2 New York Giants face the 3-0 Chicago Bears at New Meadowlands Stadium.
Slice and dice the matchups all you want, there are really only two things that will determine the outcome of Sunday's game.
- The Giants must eliminate the stupid penalties and turnovers, and force Jay Cutler and the Bears offense to make a few mistakes of their own.
- The Giants must somehow avoid getting burned by Chicago's special teams.
That's it. Period. Delve into how the Giants will deal with Chicago tight end Greg Olson if you want to. Try to figure out how they will run against a Bears defense allowing only 39 yards per game on the ground if you must. Tear your hair out trying to analyze a way the Giants will block Julius Peppers if you feel the need.
Those are secondary to the mistakes and the special teams play.
Let's deal with both issues one at a time.
The Giants are -4 in the turnover department this season, having lost four fumbles and thrown six interceptions in just three games. The opportunistic Bears are +3.
Here is what Brandon Jacobs said -- quite correctly -- after Sunday's debacle against the Titans.
"Not to take anything away from Tennessee, but we absolutely took the game, put it on a plate, walked it across the field, and gave it to them."
The Bears, of course, have noticed the Giants struggle to avoid -- for lack of a better way to put it -- blowing up their own chances to win games. They can't wait to add to the misery for Eli Manning and company.
"Licking your chops," [Lance] Briggs said when asked what the Giants turnover total means to him. "As a defense, if a team is turning the ball over you want to get the ball out. We pride ourselves on stuff like that. When we get the opportunity we have to do it."
Mistakes are going to happen, and once in a while the opposition is going to force a mistake or come up with a great play. What is killing the Giants, though, is that much of what ails them has been self-inflicted. Argue about the exact number if you must, but at least four of Manning's six interceptions are the result of receivers failing to make relatively routine catches. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are nothing more than players who know better losing their composure.
"It's something that we have to get corrected," Canty said. "We can't hurt ourselves and give ballgames away."
The Bears can absolutely turn a game around on special teams, and that has to be a huge worry. We know about Devin Hester can do (see the little reminder video below). Johnny Knox (29.7 yards per return) and Danieal Manning (26.2) are also weapons on kickoff returns. Oh, and there was Peppers blocking a field goal last week.
It's no wonder this week that Coughlin has talked about just kicking the ball out of bounds, and that lots of hints have been made about some starters having roles on the coverage teams this week.
The Giants must neutralize what seems like an obvious special teams advantage for Chicago. I don't even care about breaking a big return or making a big play -- the Giants just have to avoid getting hurt by the Bears in the kicking game.
For me, what the Giants need most of all is to beat a good football team. I don't care how, this team just needs an injection of confidence. They are 4-10 since starting 5-0 a season ago, frustration is setting in and they need something good to happen.
Justin Tuck was asked this week if this was a "must-win" game. I liked his answer.
"No. There's no such thing as one until the last game of the season and you need it for the playoffs. That's a must-win game. It's a long season. I've seen teams win eight games and have made the playoffs so if I do my math right, we have about six more losses before we have a must win game," he said. "Every game is important. I never played in a game that wasn't. It's definitely an important game and we'd love to get off to the right start in this football game early and continue it. A big win against a team like this on Sunday Night Football can really turn our season and head it in the right direction. It's definitely an important game."
Sports Network Analysis
A little something different this week. SB Nation New York is featuring a breakdown of the game from several different angles, courtesy of The Sports Network. Here are links to those pieces. Hope you enjoy this.