This was a long, weird, pug fugly game between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears.
The Giants had plenty of opportunities throughout the game, but failed to capitalize on far too many of them. What could have been the Giants’ first blow-out win in ... a long time, turned in to a torturous overtime win on a cold, misty evening in New Jersey.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Giants came up with the victory, and we get to see what there is to learn from the game.
Free safety needs to be a priority this offseason
The Giants never seemed to have much of a plan for the free safety position. First they wanted to move Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from nickel cornerback to full-time free safety, then promptly cut him. Then they gave Curtis Riley a chance to convert to the position from cornerback, and he was then made the starter when Darian Thompson was sidelined with an injury.
Thompson and Andrew Adams — who had both started multiple games at free safety in previous years — were cut just before the season. The team also tried William Gay at the position before cutting him.
Riley has been a liability at free safety throughout the season and the Giants have rotated both Michael Thomas and Sean Chandler onto the field at the position. However, they have yet to find an answer for the position.
The Giants’ defense had the chance to stick a dagger in the Bears’ offense when Riley had an easy interception — only to have it slip through his fingers. That dive culminated in a touchdown and life for the Bears.
Given the importance of the free safety position in James Bettcher’s defense, the Giants need to make a concerted effort to upgrade the position (among several others) after the season.
Odell Beckham is the Giants’ best quarterback
The Giants were stuck in the mud and absolutely lost on offense heading in to the third quarter. Then Odell Beckham happened.
No, not breaking a short slant route for a game-breaking TD catch and run, but rather for his second TD pass of the year. He is the second player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to have 5 receiving touchdowns and 2 passing touchdowns.
His TD might have been an easy pitch and catch, but it was still a LONG throw.
DID. YOU. SEE. THAT!?! @OBJ launches one 49-yards to Russell Shepard and the #NYGiants take the lead!#ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/W1a22KYuFV— New York Giants (@Giants) December 2, 2018
Odell Beckham Jr.'s 49-yard TD pass to Russell Shepard today had an air distance of 49.8 yards.@obj now has completed a longer pass than 9 qualified QBs this season, including:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 2, 2018
Marcus Mariota#GiantsPride #CHIvsNYG pic.twitter.com/Zlpgu8GyUc
Saying Beckham is the Giants’ best QB is a bit tongue and cheek ... But it also kinda isn’t. Beckham is an incredible athlete. It makes sense that he can throw the ball a long way and accurately. Maybe the Giants SHOULD consider him as a potential heir to Eli Manning.
The Giants’ special teams are ... Good!?
Aldrick Rosas should be in Pro Bowl consideration for his work thus far on the season. Not only is he fully capable of putting the ball out of the back of the end zone when the situation calls for it, but he is also capable pooching the kick and giving the coverage team a chance to make a stop and give the defense great field position.
Oh, and he’s 18-for-18 on extra points and 25 of 26 on field goals, having set a new career- and franchise-record long of 57 yards — beating his previous best of 54 yards.
Riley Dixon has proved to be an excellent pick-up after being mediocre in Denver (where the lack of ... air ... is generally seen as an advantage for kickers). Dixon has proven very good at directional punting and pinning offenses close to their own goal line. He’s also been a solid holder for Rosas.
And then there’s the Giants’ coverage units. They haven’t been perfect, but they have been much improved over previous seasons. Part of it has been the relative health of the team — they haven’t had to deal with as many street free agent mid-season replacements as they have over the last five or so years. But also, they have been getting good solid coaching from Thomas McGaughey (and kudos to Tom Quinn for stepping in as McGaughey has fought cancer).
But when you have plays like this, you just have to stand back and give them a hand.
INJECT EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS PLAY DIRECTLY INTO MY VEINS #NYG pic.twitter.com/HybfrjJBun— TankSZN Ethan (@EthanGSN) December 2, 2018
Of course, the special teams gave up the on-side kick on a poor effort from Beckham, but overall they have been an asset, which is rare enough for the Giants.
The Giants’ young defensive tackles are the strength of the defense
If we are going to give out game balls, then B.J. Hill definitely gets one. With three sacks on the day, and five on the season, the rookie defensive tackle has proven to be the Giants’ best pass rusher. We noted his under-rated athleticism after the draft, but he has flourished as his role has expanded (and put in more varied situations).
Along side him, Dalvin Tomlinson hasn’t played as well as hoped when moved into a more full-time nose tackle position with the trade of Damon Harrison, but he has played well. He also remains a versatile player who can create movement on the offensive line from the nose or in a penetrating role.
Mario Edwards Jr. had a pair of costly penalties, but both of them resulted from playing just a little too hard and perhaps a bit out of control. That doesn’t change the fact that he was routinely beating blockers and getting in to the backfield.
Whatever complaints we may have about the Giants’ scouting department, they now how to identify quality defensive tackles. It’s almost too bad that the nature of the league makes it necessary for the Giants to play nickel packages so often and they can only rarely get the three of them on the field at the same time.