Bears 27, Giants 21: Hits, Misses and Musings

“Talk is cheap; play the game.”  

Years from now when we hear that expression, chances are we’ll associate it with head coach Tom Coughlin, who of course made it famous during the Giants Super Bowl years.

Yet if anything, Coughlin and his assistant coaches, who say that they put the players in the best possible position so the team can succeed, have not always been true in that regard.

The most blatant example from this week’s game was the absence of rookie Johnathan Hankins from the lineup.

“Big Hank,” who last week against the Eagles, had a strong NFL début, was reduced to a mere eight snaps on defense, the result presumably because starter Linval Joseph returned after a week off to nurse an ankle injury.

So here’s what I don’t understand. If you want to win and you are committed to putting your best players on the field, then why was Shaun Rogers, whose play has dropped off a bit, given more snaps that the hungry rookie, especially against a Bears offensive line that hasn’t always  done a great job of protecting its quarterback?

Maybe it’s because the “NFC Least” is so awful that even a winless team still has a legitimate chance of winning the division.

Or maybe the coaches are like so many people I know; comfortable with what they know, reluctant to try or stick with something new until the absolutely have to.

Coincidentally, Coughlin was asked about trying some of the younger players to help stop the hemorrhaging.

“The way things go in the National Football League, you’ll have some opportunities along the way with young people,” he said.

“If they’re not in the mix as a one, the chances are at some point, they’ll be in the mix is a very high percentage.”

He added, “Do I think ahead? No, I don’t think any more than the next game.”

Yet earlier in that same press conference, Coughlin said, “We’re working as hard as we can to try to make, in your opinion, probably some subtle changes to try to take care of some our problems.”

If young guys like Hankins perform when given a chance, then wouldn’t it make sense to find a way to keep them in the lineup regardless of which injured veterans come back?

 

HITS
Justin Pugh:
If you were one of the people worried about Pugh’s short arms, hopefully by now you have seen that this young man has a high motor, a bullish compete level, and  exceptional balance that allows him to stay with the best of the pass rushers, even if he initially doesn’t get the advantage.

Oh, did anyone else notice that Pugh was the only one on offense who really tried to chase down after Tim Jennings after he picked off Manning for the Pick-6, even though it was clear that Jennings had no chance of being caught?

Jon Beason: Beason’s debut wasn’t spotless, but compared to the production they had gotten from that spot in the first five games it was far above anything else. Beason was active and did a nice job diagnosing plays. He also wasn’t caught up in the wash as much.

Brandon Jacobs: Kudos to the big guy, who has kept his emotions in check all week and let his play do its talking for him on the field. Jacobs looked like his 2007 self when he was blasting through holes and delivering some forceful downhill running. And how about his two touchdown runs when he carried Bears defenders into the end zone? Can we say, “Inspiring”?

 

MISSES
Keith Rivers: 
It’s a truly sad that given his talent, Rivers’ production has been pedestrian. How does he miss the fullback on a check down pass, the ensuing play gaining 30 big yards? Also, how is it that he looked clueless on what to do on a couple of deep passes, where he froze in his tracks, unsure of whether to retreat or rush?

Da’Rel Scott: I hate to kick a man when he’s down, but it seems like every time Scott has gotten on the field, he’s made some sort of mistake that either cost his team or came close to costing his team.

This week, there was the draw in which Scott ran to the wrong side of Eli Nanning, the latter of whom had to do a pirouette to keep from fumbling the ball. And why is it that Scott, when asked to pass block, doesn’t really lay a shoulder into his man?

 

HISSES
Hakeem Nicks:
Nicks might have finished listed as the leading receiver, but for the second week in a row, he had a dropped pass. Had he made that catch, he would have been five of eight on his weekly targets instead of four of eight.

People don’t discuss this very often, but Nicks is catching less than 60 percent of the balls thrown his way. Certainly some of those are poor throws, but there have been quite a few drops sprinkled in there, which makes one wonder if he’s fully healthy.

 

MUSINGS
If there’s one thing that bothers me most  about the job being done by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, it’s his stubbornness to mold the offense to the skill level he has.

I firmly believe Gilbride is still running the same plays and holding the same expectations for today’s offense that he was for the 2007 Super Bowl championship team. For proof of that, look no further than what’s going on with the receivers.

In 2007, the Giants had Amani Toomer, a 12-year veteran at the time, and Plaxico Burress, a seven-year veteran. In 2013, they have Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle, the three of whom combine for 11 years of experience, which is one less than what Toomer’s experience.

Yet Gilbride is still expecting players like Reuben Randle, who has nine more targets this year than he did last year in his rookie season, to be able to process the many complex decisions that a receiver has to make?

I’m not suggesting that Randle lacks the intelligence, but let’s be realistic. This young man isn’t at a point in his game where he’s seen everything at the pro level to where he knows how to adjust with the same confidence that Toomer or Burress had.

So if the coaches really want to help Eli Manning cut down on his interceptions, if they really want to help pull the offense out of its rut, then simplify the passing offense.

What do they have to lose, other than the interceptions by a quarterback who seems to be spending too much time hoping his receivers see things the way he does.

* * *

I know some of you are going to disagree with me, but after further review, I don’t fault Brandon Myers for that last interception.

Initially I thought that Myers might have at least tried to volley the ball up in the air to himself for the rebound, but after watching the play several times, he really had no chance on the pass.

It’s too bad too, because Myers, balky ankle and all, had his best performance as a Giant, yet all some people are going to talk about is how he should have made that catch.

 

THE FINAL WORD
If Giants management is looking for a way to get the attention of any players who don’t care about the won-loss record, here’s a suggestion that might be just as effective as when the late Wellington Mara once warned his under-performing team that anyone content with the perks of being a member of the Giants would be gone that offseason.

Change the Super Bowl countdown clock and replace it with “Days Until Guys Who Only Care About Getting a NFL Paycheck Are Gone” clock.

Think about it. The Super Bowl often affords players who aren’t participating far more opportunities to schmooze with corporate sponsors, media personnel, etc. than it does for the majority of the players on the participating teams.

With the game being in their back yard, in the media capital of the U.S., how convenient is that for the players who live in the area?

Maybe if you threaten to take away the one link that makes them attractive to the sponsors and media, maybe, just maybe they’ll pay more attention.

It sounds crazy and probably is. But at this point, what do they have to lose?

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