EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—After barely hanging on during a dismal first half Sunday night, the Bears crushed the Giants with 28 points in less than 25 minutes of the second half for a 38-20 victory over a team that didn't show them much respect before the game.
The result was a decisive road victory against a strong conference foe that had won five straight and had allowed only 16 points total in its previous three home games. If the Bears are still considered overrated at 8-1, they don't much care at this point.
Disaster came early and often and in much the same form as it had against Miami. The Giants easily sliced through the Bears' defense, exactly as wideout Plaxico Burress had predicted. They started from their 29 with a 17-yard completion from Eli Manning to Burress and runs of 18 and 21 yards by Tiki Barber. The drive reached the Bears' 15 after a 5-yard throw to Barber. But Hunter Hillenmeyer made a leaping deflection of a Manning pass, and the New York quarterback badly overthrew Burress to force a 33-yard field-goal try by Jay Feely that missed wide right.
The Giants then came at Grossman with the same kind of blitz pressure the Dolphins used successfully. With the ball at the Bears' 25, Grossman was hit by Will Demps on a safety blitz, and the ball went into the hands of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who had dropped into coverage. Kiwanuka returned the pick 32 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the 1. Brandon Jacobs scored to give the Giants a 7-0 lead.
The Bears managed a first down on a highlight catch by Muhsin Muhammad, but the New York blitz forced Grossman into hurried throws.
But then the defense created an opportunity. Charles Tillman shadowed Burress perfectly down the sideline, then broke inside and intercepted Manning's pass at the Bears' 44, returning it to the New York 45. A roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Bears 15 yards, but two drops by Rashied Davis, starting for Bernard Berrian, left the Bears with a 49-yard field-goal attempt. Robbie Gould ran his 2006 mark to 23 straight.
But in the closing minute of the quarter, safety Gibril Wilson ripped the ball out of Thomas Jones' hands, and the Giants had the ball well inside Bears territory again.
What went right: Gould's consistency remained a bright spot amid offensive troubles, and the defense refused to buckle.
What went wrong: Grossman and the offense were unable to burn the Giants despite the long list of injuries to the New York defense. They couldn't run the ball well enough to take pressure off Grossman.
Quote: "They came out with a lot of intensity. They hit us in the mouth a little bit." Grossman on woeful first quarter.
Cedric Benson was in for the first snap on three of four drives, but neither he nor Jones was doing much of anything. When the Bears opted for a Jones run on third-and-8 from their 13, the implication seemed to be that the Bears had no confidence in Grossman or the offense to convert anything longer than a dive.
Jones' fumble at the end of the first quarter had turned into New York points when Feely converted from 46 yards. But the offense remained unable to mount a challenge, with consecutive three-and-outs at a time when momentum was theirs for the taking. Chad Morton then broke loose for a 36-yard punt return down the sideline to give the Giants good position at the Bears' 31. A completion to Burress, who was generally being defended well by Tillman, got the Giants a first down. But New York settled for a Feely field goal from 40 yards for a 13-3 lead.
The Bears then gave themselves a chance to turn the game around with one of their more improbable drives in recent weeks. Despite two penalties, the offense moved from the Bears' 26 to the New York 29 in seven plays, picking up first downs on Grossman passes to Jones and Muhammad plus a 26-yard Jones run on third down. On first down inside the final minute, Mark Bradley beat a jam off the line by cornerback Sam Madison, who stumbled slightly and injured his hamstring as Bradley broke free. Grossman lofted the ball perfectly over Madison, and Bradley, playing for the first time after five weeks as an inactive, gathered in his second pass of the season at the 1 and scored. That pulled the Bears within 13-10 in a half that had been completely dominated by the Giants.
What went right: A third-and-22 conversion and the Bears going to a no-huddle offense changed the momentum of the game in the closing minutes of the half.
What went wrong: The Bears were penalized for more yards (35) than they gained rushing (31).
Quote: "Sometimes it helps, when things aren't going well, to go to a no-huddle like that. It catches them in a situation where they're calling basic stuff and aren't real sure what's going on." Grossman on the final minutes of the first half when the game changed.