East Rutherford, NJ — The Giants should be happy because they have good starters, the Bears should be happy because they have depth. Ultimately, depth beat a solid starting effort tonight in MetLife, as the defending champs fell to the Bears 20-17 in a contest that even with 76,077 in attendance never lost its feel as a preseason game until the final 2 minutes. Without Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, or Ahmad Bradshaw the Giants came out an incomplete team. Without Urlacher, the Bears just don’t feel like the Bears. Still, the two playoff hopefuls came to play tonight and have a number of things to be please with and to build on.
The game started out like it was going to be three and outs all night long. Each offence couldn’t get anything going. However, with all the players out due to injury the Giants can be excited about the way some projected bench players stepped up tonight. Most notably David Wilson, in for Bradshaw, basically marched the Giants down the field rushing for 40 yards on three plays putting New York in position for their first score. Wilson opens the Giants offence to a whole new level if he can reproduce his play tonight on a consistent level during the regular season.
The quarterbacks tonight proved that they are known commodities. Manning played the whole first half and went 17 for 21 with 148 yards, 1 touchdown without an interception, good enough for a 111.9 passer rating. Manning was typical Eli, poised and focused with one mental mistake in the first quarter resulting in a false start. Jake Cutler played into the third quarter, but only went 9 for 21 with 101 yards. Cutler did have the nicest pass of the game: a gorgeous 21 yard floater to the corner of the end zone to old pal Brandon Marshall. Expect those two to connect quite a bit this season.
The all-important 3rd down efficiency stat reared it ugly head for both football teams, particularly early on. The Bears went 8 for 19 on 3rd down, while the Giants had a pitiful 3 for 13 effort. This means, of course, that special teams became an important part of this game. The Giants made the biggest special teams play tonight, blocking a punt late in the first half setting up the touchdown that sent the teams to the locker rooms with the Giants up 10.
With the first string pulled you could see how depth could be a strength for Chicago all year. While a healthy Jake Cutler would go a long way in helping the Bear’s playoff chances, backup Jason Cambell had a better statistical night than Cutler, going 12 for 19 with a passer rating of 94.4. Cutler was rated at 72.7 with a 9 for 12 effort. Giants backup David Carr went 7 for 19, but did drive the length of the field in the closing minutes only to throw and interception in the end zone effectively ending the game.
Each team can, however, go home relatively happy. The Bears know that Cutler, while prone to erred throws, does have enough flashes of brilliance up his sleeve and is a much better quarterback than his rating tonight would suggest. The Giants can be happy knowing that even in defeal it was the second string that got them the lead in the first half. New York really did not have its full first string starting in at all tonight, with all the starters recuperating. This was a problem made worse when Prince Amukamara when out with a high ankle sprain and did not play after the first quarter.
And while depth did triumph over superior starters both teams showed why they should be in the playoff hunt this winter