EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There was nothing pretty about Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears for the New York Giants. Except, that is for the final score that the Giants victorious in a 30-27 overtime slop-fest at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants were atrocious on offense in the first half. Five punts, four on three-and-outs, a bad interception thrown by Eli Manning, a field goal. Manning was only 7-of-17 for 73 yards and a 29.8 passer rating in the first half, and it was fair to wonder if Kyle Lauletta would see second-half action if things continued the way they were going.
The combination of Bears’ quarterback Chase Daniel and Giants’ linebacker Alec Ogletree kept the Giants in the game in the first half. Ogletree picked off two Daniel passes, returning one 8 yards for a score just 46 seconds into the game. Daniel also had a fumble, the first of four he would have during the game.
An improvised Odell Beckham Jr. to Russell Shepard 49-yard touchdown pass gave the Giants the lead early in the third quarter.
The Giants couldn’t stand prosperity, though, turning a 10-point lead with 1:53 left in the game into a tie that forced overtime. A botched onside kick recovery with 1:13 to go, a 23-yard pass from Daniel to Tarik Cohen and a pass interference penalty in the end zone on B.W. Webb contributed to the late-game collapse.
Even in overtime, with the ball first, the Giants didn’t make things easy. By rule, a touchdown on the first possession of overtime wins the game. The Giants had a chance for one, but a pass from Manning to Sterling Shepard that would have been a game-ending 26-yard score banged off Shepard’s hands. Aldrick Rosas drilled a 44-yard field goal.
The Giants held, but it wasn’t easy. They survived one fourth-down conversion, got help from three Daniel fumbles in the space of six plays, and survived when Janoris Jenkins batted away a desperation fourth-down heave from Daniel to Taylor Gabriel to end the game.
The Giants probably don’t win if Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback, was playing. He didn’t play, though, and the Giants did win.
“The takeaway is, and I told the team this - I’ll keep the swear words out of it – some people are fond of talented people, some people are fond of smart people, I’m fond of tough, resilient people,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “When you’re trying to flip culture, when you’re trying to build something, you’ve got to really dig in on that.
“There was some toughness and some resiliency. It would have been easy to cave when they came back, an 8-3 team, came back and tied us up, they had a little bit of juice, a little bit of mojo, but our guys found a way to put points on the board and then stop them at the end. I’m fond of toughness and resiliency, and our team showed that today.”
Don’t look now, but the once 1-7 Giants have now won three out of four. They are a 63-yard Graham Gano field goal and a second-half collapse a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles from being 6-6 and right in the middle of the NFC East playoff race.
The Giants are learning. They are improving. They are making progress.
“We’re learning how to win, simple as that,” said Russell Shepard. “Early in the season we probably lose that game. We don’t want to be in that situation but at the end of the day we won the football game.”
Building an identity
Two of the Giants offensive linemen talked about the Giants beginning to build something.
“It’s a waste of our time to look back. What we’ve gotta do is look forward. Keep the plow to the ground and it says a lot about the guys,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “We’re not getting caught up in the circumstances. We’re not getting caught up in what people want to tell us our team is. We’re creating our own identity.”
Brown was part of the Los Angeles Rams team that had losing records his first two years, but was a playoff team a year ago and has just one loss this season. The Giants’ 3-1 second half has corresponded to Brown’s insertion into the starting lineup at right guard.
“I’ve seen it. I’ve been a part of it. I think we have the start of the makings to do that here,” Brown said after Sunday’s victory. “The biggest thing we’ve gotta do is stay in the moment and trust the process. Change doesn’t happen overnight. You would love for it to happen overnight, but that’s not really how it works. We’ve gotta just keep chopping at it, chopping at it and eventually it’ll turn around.”
The Giants chopped down a Bears team they weren’t expected to beat on Sunday. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t clean. It wasn’t without mistakes. It wasn’t without some help from the Bears.
It was, though, a victory. The Giants will take it as they try to finish the 2018 season feeling better about themselves, and feeling like they are pointed to a better future.