Manning: Bears 'just don't give up many big plays'
However, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher often reminds reporters that yards don't win games, points win games, and Chicago is currently tied for 10th in the league at 17.0 points allowed per game, which is part of the reason Urlacher plays for the only undefeated team left in the NFC.
Helped by the addition of free-agent pass rusher Julius Peppers, and with Urlacher looking like the Urlacher of old on tape, Giants quarterback Eli Manning sees a defense simply playing better than it has in recent seasons, not necessarily changing things up schematically in its base Cover-2 approach.
"It's basically the same stuff," Manning said Wednesday via conference call at Halas Hall. "I'd say they're just playing at a high level. They're very consistent. They play fast. They have tremendous players. They can get a great rush with just bringing their front four. They do a good job mixing up different blitzes."
In Week 3, the Bears were sliced and diced due to a surgeon-like performance from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who completed 34 of 45 throws for 316 yards, but the Pro Bowl passer only got his offense into the end zone twice and was forced to nickel-and-dime his way up and down the field – none of Green Bay's four talented wide receivers recorded a catch longer than 18 yards.
"They really just don't give up many big plays," said Manning, "and that's kind of what you see. Teams that do go down [the field], it's long drives, it's being consistent. [The Bears] keep everything in front of them for the most part, and then they run to the ball extremely well, they tackle extremely well, they do a good job stripping the ball, so it's one of those things where as an offense you've got to be extremely patient. You've got to play almost perfect. You can't get out of track. You can't get off rhythm."
If that's the case, Week 4's matchup between the 3-0 Bears and 1-2 Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium may slant in Chicago's favor, as Manning has already been responsible for eight turnovers: six interceptions and two fumbles lost.
Coughlin: Hester 'a real weapon' on special teams
But enemy coaches had their memories jogged Monday at Soldier Field, when Hester returned a punt 62 yards for a TD and gave Chicago its first lead of the game against a suddenly-stunned Green Bay ballclub.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin was paying attention on Monday Night Football and knows all too well that he'll have to put in some extra practice time with his punt team this week to deal with Hester.
"Any time you have a guy that puts the ball in the end zone or sets up a touchdown, you've got a real weapon," said Coughlin. "It's just like being on the defensive side of the ball. You've got to try to find as many ways as you can to try to negate that or neutralize that weapon."
With two quality defensive units squaring off against each other, field position will be critical and is one of the reasons why Packers punter Tim Masthay couldn't simply keep the ball away from Hester every single time.
"We ask our punter (rookie Matt Dodge) to do a lot of things," Coughlin said. "He's a young punter, and the situation that the young Green Bay punter was put in the other night, where he had to punt out of the end zone, there's not a whole heckuva lot you're going to do there. You shank one or miss one there, you're going to give the guy the ball well inside the 50-yard line as it is. So you've got to rely on some people to get out and cover, and of course protection comes first. The kid's punting out of the end zone, so protection first. And then there's one flaw in the coverage, and it's found by the return man, and the rest is history. You've got to be aware of all those things, and you've got to be able to kind of try to strategize in circumstances where you can punt the ball."
Hester has hurt the Giants before on special teams, but not returning a punt – it was a missed field goal he took back 108 yards to paydirt at the old Meadowlands on Nov. 12, 2006, his rookie season.
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Conference Call: Manning, Coughlin
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