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Game Notes: Bears hold off Giants with pedestrian performance

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The Bears improved to 5-6 with their victory over the Giants.

NFL: New York Giants at Chicago Bears
Mitchell Trubisky’s up-and-down day was enough to help put the Giants away.
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the Bears’ performance on Sunday was just good enough to pick up the win.

Chicago picked up the 19-14 win over the Giants in a matchup that saw neither team play at their best, but good defense on the Bears’ part and poor kicking on New York’s part helped sway the game into the direction of the Bears.

Here are some notes from this week’s action.

Offense

Sunday turned out to be the Allen Robinson show.

The former Pro Bowl wide receiver tore up the Giants’ secondary on Sunday, finishing with 6 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. His ability to create separation and expose soft zone coverage was on full display, as he found himself able to break free from coverage and attack the weaknesses in New York’s defense very well. Robinson could have had an even bigger game had his 60-yard touchdown not been called back for an illegal use of the hands penalty, but the wide out still managing to stack up fantastic numbers this week.

Contributing alongside him was Anthony Miller, who had 6 catches and 77 yards of his own. All but two of his catches resulted in gains beyond 10 yards, and he was able to get open on a consistent basis this week. Though he has suffered through some inconsistencies this year, he has shown that he can produce at a high level if used correctly. Now, the Bears just have to take advantage of that, as Miller has caught one pass or fewer in 5 games this year.

Playing a solid role in Robinson and Miller’s respective great games was Mitchell Trubisky, who had a season-high 278 passing yards while completing 25 of his 41 attempts. The quarterback made a handful of nice throws throughout the game, and he proved capable of running the offense in an effective manner at times, especially in up-tempo situations. He trusted his targets and was willing to stretch the field more often than usual, and he even added a rushing touchdown to his lone score through the air to Robinson.

Trubisky wasn’t perfect this week. He threw two interceptions, both results of poor decision-making on his part. He forced an end-zone throw to Anthony Miller that was snagged easily by Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree across the middle, stalling out a 77-yard drive in the process. Trubisky’s interception to Julian Love was a desperate 3rd-and-10 heave that had no business being thrown, and the ball ended up well short of his target, Javon Wims. The quarterback also was guilty of forcing reads and taking too long to scan the field, missing opportunities to strike.

Stalling out was a trend for the Bears’ offense this week, as three lengthy drives ended with their failing to score six in the red zone. Ogletree’s interception served as one, and Eddy Piñeiro kicked both a 24- and a 26-yard field goal after the team fell apart close to the end zone.

Among the disappointments for the Bears was the ground game, as they ran 26 times for 65 yards: a 2.5 yards-per-carry outing. David Montgomery found himself unable to get going, unable to hit holes consistently, even if his offensive line didn’t do him too many favors. Trubisky had a season-high 7 carries but didn’t do too much with them outside of his touchdown. Taylor Gabriel also had a poor outing, catching just one pass and continuing his struggles with drops. The veteran is in the midst of a cold streak and might benefit from a wake-up call in the form of decreased playing time.

The Bears didn’t light it up on offense, but they made just enough big plays to get in the position to win. That approach would be enough for them to win more games, but the offense may be adopting it too late into the season for it to mean anything.

Defense

Khalil Mack returned to the stat sheet this week.

After not putting up any stats last week against the Rams and only putting up one sack in the previous five games, Mack recorded a patented strip sack on Daniel Jones and had 3 tackles. The sack gives the All-Pro pass-rusher 6 sacks on the year, as well as a tally of 5 forced fumbles which places him in a tie for the most in the league. Despite seeing chip blocks and both double- and triple-team situations, Mack was able to make a crucial play that set the Bears up for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Leading the way on defense in the tackling department was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who had 7 tackles and recorded a pass deflection. The former Pro Bowler was a force to be reckoned with throughout the game, making several solid tackles and executing assignments in coverage. Clinton-Dix has been a very good addition to the Bears’ secondary, and his performance this season indicates he’ll receive a solid contract in the offseason, whether that be from Chicago or somebody else.

The Bears’ defense stepped up when it was needed most throughout the game. The Giants went a dismal 1-for-12 on third down, and they missed two of their four fourth-down conversion attempts. Chicago did a good job of shutting down Jones through the air, and save for three runs that surpassed 20 yards, they held the Giants to just over two yards per carry on 18 of their 21 runs as a team. Saquon Barkley made a minimal impact on the game.

An underrated performer in the game was Leonard Floyd, who only had one tackle but contributed four quarterback hits and was also a reliable defender in coverage. He did a good job of pressuring Jones and collapsing the pocket, prompting some inconsistent throws on the rookie’s part.

It wasn’t a perfect outing from the Bears on defense, and some of their key contributors put forth rough games. Roquan Smith had only 4 tackles after reaching double-digits in his prior three matchups: he didn’t play much of a role in how their run support turned out. Eddie Jackson had 6 tackles—including one for a loss—but continued his struggles in coverage, allowing a late touchdown to Golden Tate in a 4th-and-18 situation that had no business being converted. Last year’s first-team All-Pro has played less of a true free safety role in Chuck Pagano’s defense, but that alone doesn't totally excuse his issues in coverage.

The Bears were able to hold their opponent’s offense in check for much of the game, and they finished with a performance that had more good plays than bad. Their solid game helped lead the team to victory.

Three and out

3. At what point do the Bears consider making Riley Ridley and Alex Bars active?

Neither rookie has played a single down all year, but the struggles of players ahead of them on the depth chart indicate they deserve a chance soon. Rashaad Coward is still a work in progress at guard, so it might be worth a shot to give Bars some snaps later in the year just to see what they have in him going forward.

The same goes for Ridley, whose polished skill-set and ceiling as a solid No. 2 receiver make it baffling he hasn’t received any playing time at all this year. Taylor Gabriel has struggled in recent weeks, so why not give the fourth-round rookie some of his snaps as the ‘Z’ receiver? If Ridley is the steal the Bears claim he was in the 2019 draft—and tape indicates he was—then he deserves the chance to prove it.

2. The Bears should consider adding more tempo to their offense.

Though Trubisky has performed far below expectations in 2019, he remains very effective in two-minute drill situations. Running a no-huddle offense seems to play to his strengths, as it tires out the defense and gives him less time to overthink things and just go out there and play. The Bears ran the no-huddle multiple times throughout the game and saw solid results: Trubisky went 9-for-13 on those throws.

Running a no-huddle offense the entire time wouldn’t work, but instilling more of it into their gameplan could play to their strengths.

1. We’ll end these notes on a comment about special teams, because why not?

Cordarrelle Patterson received a two-year, $10 million contract over the offseason, and his performance on special teams alone makes him worth the price of admission. He has 21 kick returns for 621 yards—the latter stat leading the NFL—and is one of just five returners to have scored a touchdown on a kick return this year.

Patterson has also starred as a gunner, where he has five tackles on the year. He showcased his speed and knack for special teams on Sunday, when he managed to down one of Pat O’Donnell’s punts at the 3-yard line and prevented Jabrill Peppers from breaking free for a big punt return.

For his ability to make an impact on special teams regardless of his role, Patterson has been one of the best third-phase players in the league this season. In a disappointing season that may not see many Bears named to the Pro Bowl, he may be one of them who deserves it.