Few teams have rushed the passer less effectively or stopped the run less in 2013 than the New York Giants. The Bears’ pass rush is poor: 30th in the NFL in sacks per pass play. The Giants’ is worse: 32nd, one sack every 41 pass plays.
But the Giants have played the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, two of the 5-0 teams, and Denver simply does not allow Peyton Manning to be sacked.
But the Bears are top-10 in rushing average and pass protection and the difference is measured in Jay Cutler’s behavior. The Giants still have ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul from the team that sacked him nine times in one half in 2010 but Cutler’s mistakes this season have rarely been the result of desperation.
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“I think it all starts with that,” said coach Marc Trestman. “You try to avoid the hits early. We had a couple of hits early [vs. New Orleans] but that doesn’t mean he didn’t come out of it, because he did. Protection is the number one area where a quarterback’s poise and confidence and creativity can come into play.
“Because when he knows he can step up and complete a throwing motion, then his sense of accountability comes into play. When he feels like he can’t step up or he can’t move and make a play in the pocket, then it’s just an act of survival. That’s tough. Where he’s at right now, I think we’re still growing. We’re still trying to get better. We think we’re going in the right direction but there is work to be done.”
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The Bears have allowed three sacks in each of the past two games. Notably, they have averaged 3.8 yards per carry or better in each of the last four games, and the Bears are expected to get physical with a Giants front that is tied for 27th in rushing defense.
The Giants have allowed 140 or more rushing yards in three of their five games and 107 and 102 in the other two.
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The key for the Bears is on the edges. Rookie right tackle Jordan Mills has posted negative grades in the past four games, based on evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com, and left tackle Jermon Bushrod struggled against the Saints. Guards Kyle Long and Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza were solid but the pass-rush dangers from the Giants are on the outside.
Running at Pierre-Paul and Tuck is a way of forcing rushmen to respect the run.
“Anytime you can run the ball at an effective level it helps with the passing game, it helps with your protections, it wears the defense down,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “So, you always want to establish a running game but you have to keep it balanced to win and that’s what we’ll do.”