The Giants are coming off a predictable loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that was rendered somewhat disappointing by the fact that they held a lead for most of the first half and looked to be in position for the upset win for much of the game. The Bears, meanwhile, were able to come away from Week 1 with an upset win over their division rival Detroit Lions.
The Bears offense looked ordinary to bad through the first three quarters of the game. That was until Mitchell Trubisky caught fire and played an amazing fourth quarter that saw him score 3 touchdowns and erase a 23-6 deficit.
With that in mind, what can the Giants’ defense do to make sure that Trubisky isn’t able to build on the momentum he established at the end of week 1?
Keys to the game
Win the line of scrimmage
This is a repeat key from last week, but the Giants’ defensive success will likely be built on the play of their defensive front. While the Giants might not have the most disruptive defensive line in the NFL, they have a number of good players who are able to hold their own against almost any offensive line in the league.
The Giants did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage for most of the game against the Steelers. It started to become clear that fatigue was setting in for both teams towards the end of the game, and that lead to some big runs by shifty running back Benny Snell, but neither team found much success on the ground through the first three quarters.
The Bears offensive line doesn’t look to be particularly good on paper, and that could present an opportunity for the Giants. Mitchell Trubisky was only sacked once by the Lions, but that might be more of a comment on their pass rush than the Bears’ pass protection. Patrick Graham did an impressive job of scheming one-on-one matchups for his defensive linemen and that should favor the Giants in this game.
That being said, the Bears do have a varied running game featuring David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trubisky himself. The Giants will have to be aware of who is in the backfield as each player has a unique skill-set and a running quarterback is always a threat to the defense.
The Giants might want to pay particular attention to Cohen, as his size can make him difficult to find behind the line of scrimmage and his speed makes him a big play threat as a runner and receiver. If the Giants are not sound in their run fits and gap discipline, they could find themselves chasing Cohen all around the field.
Confuse Mitchell Trubisky
There might not be a more “Jekyll and Hyde” quarterback in the NFL than Trubisky. The Bears quarterback can be slow, mistake-prone, and ineffective to the point of being a liability, but he can also light a defense up in the right circumstances.
He is at his best when the Bears are able to simplify the defense and allow Trubisky to play fast. When he is able to get in rhythm and keep defenses off-balance, Trubisky can be the reason why the Bears win games, as we saw with his 8 for 10, 3-touchdown performance in the fourth quarter against the Lions. But when Trubisky is forced to think his way through games, he is prone to slow play and poor decisions.
The Giants did a great job of disguising their intentions and confusing Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offensive line in the first half of Monday night’s game. It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway — Trubisky isn’t Roethlisberger. Trubisky isn’t nearly as good a quarterback as Big Ben is, and he doesn’t have anything like the experience that Roethlisberger does. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Steelers were able to pick up on the Giants’ defensive tendencies and adapt mid-game. The Bears don’t have that kind of veteran experience with their quarterback or head coach.
The Giants used a variety of looks on defense in the first half, playing out of fronts with anywhere from zero to four down linemen, all while sending a wide variety of pass rushers. We should expect to see more of that against the Bears in an effort to confuse Trubisky and his offensive line.
Patrick Graham was able to scheme one-on-one matchups for his players that left Steelers linemen blocking air, and the Bears offensive line doesn’t appear to be as good as even the injured Steelers line is. Likewise, if you force Trubisky to think, he’s prone to over-thinking and making mistakes. If the Giants can use their versatility and blitz packages to create confusion, they should be able to capitalize.
Don’t fall into tendencies
This is more a corollary to the previous key than a stand alone point, but it’s a still an important point.
When Trubisky was at his best against the Lions and playing a nearly flawless fourth quarter, The Bears were running an up-tempo, quick-strike offense. That also happens to be the type of offense the Steelers were running when they hit their groove and scored 16 straight points against the Giants.
A very definite trend emerged from the Giants’ game against Pittsburgh. When the Steelers were running a “traditional” vertical passing game with power running, the Giants countered with zone coverages. Those coverages allowed the Giants to disguise many of their looks and overload the weakened right side of the Steelers’ offensive line.
But when the Steelers moved to an up-tempo, quick passing offense, the Giants played mostly man coverage. The calculus behind the decision makes sense, at least on the surface. If receivers were able to get free releases off the line, things start to get easy for the offense if the defense can’t also get quick pressure. The problem came when the Steelers recognized what situations in which the Giants called man coverage. Then the Steelers were able to force those situations while calling man coverage beater concepts to create easier passes and prevent the Giants from disrupting routes.
While we have already established that Matt Nagy and Trubisky aren’t Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger, they are still professionals who have access to tape from the Giants’ game Monday night. If the Steelers were able to pick up on the Giants’ tendencies mid-game, the Bears might well be able to find them in their film study. The Giants will have to avoid falling into those same tendencies and bring extra wrinkles to keep the Bears guessing and unable to set the terms of the game.