Giant defense shows up as offense reason to doubt team's for real

Landon Collins turned to the Bears sideline after a defensive stop in Sunday’s third quarter and pumped his chest with his right fist, foreshadowing a scoreless Chicago second half and a fifth-straight Giants win, 22-16, sealed by Collins’ fifth interception in the past four games.

“At this point, it’s like, alright, the football gods, they love him, and I’m happy for him,” free safety Nat Berhe said with a grin.

Collins confirmed the Giants (7-3) and Bears (2-8) were trash-talking heavily all game, including his own second-quarter spat with Chicago receiver Josh Bellamy. And the second-year strong safety said it only motivated the Big Blue defense to dig itself out of a first-half funk of allowing two touchdowns and a field goal on the Bears’ first three possessions.

“Some people get mesmerized by trash talk and it messes with how they’re playing,” Collins said after his pick of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. “But for some of us, it gets you even more intrigued and you play better — like I’m ready, I’m here.”

Odell Beckham Jr. called Collins’ unit a “Super Bowl defense” last Monday night because of this swagger, this talent, this week-in and week-out ability of Steve Spagnuolo’s unit to get the job done. But here’s the worrisome flip-side of that reality:

This is going to HAVE to be a Super Bowl defense if the Giants want to make this five-game winning streak count for something in January. Because the offense’s ability to close out last Monday’s 21-20 win over the Bengals clearly was an anomaly, and this doesn’t feel like a sustainable recipe for success.

“Nah, you don’t want (to keep winning nail-biters with the defense on the field),” corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But when you’re put into that position — we’ve been in it many times and for the most part we’ve come out on the winning side and we’re definitely prepared for it — but you know, if you have a choice, you’d rather the offense just run the clock out. But if you’ve got to go out there, just go out there.”

After Eli Manning hit Sterling Shepard for a 15-yard TD to take the 22-16 with 6:54 left in the third quarter, coach Ben McAdoo’s play-calling became absurdly conservative in five straight fruitless drives including three three-and-outs. Rashad Jennings (21 carries, 85 yards, TD) and the Giants’ offensive line stopped moving the ball. Jennings had eight carries for 22 yards in the fourth (2.75 yards per carry). Left guard Marshall Newhouse’s sprained knee at the start of the fourth quarter no doubt was a factor.

Nevertheless, think of how strange it is that the Giants are on their first five-game winning streak since winning six straight on the way to the Super Bowl XLVI in 2011, and yet in Sunday’s postgame locker room, there was plenty of frustration evident in Beckham’s and Jennings’ behaviors and words.

Beckham (five catches, 46 yards) needed a coach to calm him down on the sideline in the second half as the Bears defense keyed on him and bottled him up, save for his smart adjustment and 20-yard reception in the early second half to set up a Will Tye touchdown.

Beckham failed to get a first down late in the fourth quarter that could have helped ice the game. Then he was fully dressed and clearly in a bad mood when the locker room opened. Beckham talked to the media and, in fairness, was peppered too often with the same question about Chicago shutting him down after answering it the first time. But it was strange to see a Giant not all smiles given the circumstances and the game’s result.

“No, (Chicago’s defense did) nothing different,” Beckham said. “Defense played lights out today. They were a big part of the game.”

Jennings bristled at a suggestion that the Bears might have been a pushover opponent.

“You’re gonna tell me they’re not NFL players over there?” a testy Jennings said. “We (as an offense) can continue to grow and finish with the ball in our hands. We weren’t able to do that like we wanted to, and that’s something we’re gonna have to do down the stretch.”

The Giants defense looked disappointingly unprepared in the first half, resulting in another game in which McAdoo’s team won but often didn’t look like the better team. “Nobody wants to start slow,” said Olivier Vernon, a monster in the win. “The Bears weren’t doing anything that we hadn’t seen on film. We just have to start faster.”

Jason Pierre-Paul still said, however, that on the game’s final drive he told teammates a win was coming.

“They ain’t scoring. Buckle down,” Pierre-Paul recounted. “I told some guys it’s time to ball up. It’s on us, and guys responded. I responded myself. I can’t just do talking. I’ve got to show up.”

The defense has shown up. Eli Manning made enough plays to outduel Jay Cutler, but the offense’s late shortcomings — and even Dwayne Harris’ fumbled punt, recovered by Eli Apple — were reasons to still doubt if these Giants are for real.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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