(Sports Network) – Mistakes have plagued the New York Giants throughout the early segments of this NFL season, while the Chicago Bears are off to a surprising 3-0 start largely due to their ability to take advantage of opponents’ miscues.
The surging Bears will seek to continue their opportunistic ways when the NFC’s lone unbeaten team invades New Meadowlands Stadium this Sunday to take on a reeling Giants squad aiming to avoid its worst four-game beginning in 13 years.
Chicago has been impressively resourceful — and maybe a bit fortunate as well — in opening a campaign with three straight victories for the first time since 2006, when the Bears went 7-0 out of the chute en route to a 13-win regular-season and an appearance in Super Bowl XLI. After an overturned call on a would-be go-ahead touchdown in the final minute gave the club a 19-14 victory over Detroit in its 2010 opener, Chicago forced three turnovers and got several big plays on offense to hand reigning NFC East champion Dallas a stunning 27-20 loss on the road in Week 2.
The Bears made a few more believers with Monday’s gritty performance against another 2009 playoff participant, rallying from an early 10-point deficit for a 20-17 triumph over rival Green Bay. Chicago got a major spark from both its defense and special teams against the Packers, with return man extraordinaire Devin Hester taking a punt back 62 yards for a touchdown in the opening stages of the fourth quarter and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher forcing a fumble in the game’s final minutes to set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal with four seconds left.
Chicago has also benefited from a more judicious approach from quarterback Jay Cutler. After throwing a league-worst 26 interceptions in a disappointing first season in the Windy City in 2009, the rocket-armed triggerman has been picked off only twice through the first three games while so far thriving in new coordinator Mike Martz’s wide-open offense.
While the Bears have shown a real knack for producing momentum-changing plays, the Giants have been littered with errors and mishaps over the course of the season’s first month. New York has turned the ball over 10 times during its 1-2 start, with three of those giveaways coming in last Sunday’s 29-10 home setback to Tennessee in which Big Blue outgained the Titans by a 471-271 margin in total yards.
The Giants were also held back by 11 penalties, including five personal fouls as well as a chop-block call on running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the end zone early in the second half that resulted in a safety and an eventual nine-point swing.
New York will likely need to show better execution this week to avert losing three of its first four games for the first time since 1997, although the Giants went on to win the NFC East with a 10-5-1 record that season.
If some more recent trends hold true, the winner of Sunday’s showdown could be heading towards big things down the road. The Giants prevailed in the last encounter between these teams back in 2007 and went on to upset the New England Patriots in that season’s Super Bowl, while the Bears bested New York the previous year before going on to claim the NFC title.
Cutler has been marvelous and Chicago’s defense is indeed for real, but there’s still reason to remain a little skeptical of a team that’s pulled out two of its three wins by the skin of its teeth. The Giants are a very beatable foe at the moment, though, with turnover problems on offense, a defense that’s been decent but unspectacular and having their composure come unglued at times. New York gets a real wake-up call here, however, as an undefeated opponent and the bitter taste from last weekend’s performance should serve as a rallying cry for a team that needs a win. Manning’s going to have to outplay his fellow quarterback in order to get it done, but the feeling here is Cutler’s going to have one or two moments where he reverts to his careless 2009 form.