SUN BEAR NEWS-Bowman,harris,urlacher,jennings,cutler
Bears-Giants: Four things to watch on Sunday
By Brad Biggs
1. Changing of the guard
Obscured by the fact that the Bears last Monday benched a three-time Pro Bowl performer who signed a nearly $40 million extension three years ago is the fact that the defense continued to perform well in the absence of Tommie Harris, not to mention cornerback Zack Bowman, who got the hook after two series. The Bears have struggled without top depth for a number of seasons, and tackle Matt Toeaina and cornerback Tim Jennings looked like capable replacements. Harris and Bowman got only a few reps with the first team this past week. Look for more of the same.
2. Brick wall
A run defense that allowed six of its final 11 opponents to rush for 135 yards or more last season has been nearly impenetrable. The Bears' first three opponents have combined for 119 yards on 56 rushes for a 2.1-yard average. The Giants pose a formidable test with Ahmad Bradshaw, but with former SIU standout Brandon Jacobs struggling, it's not the 1-2 punch New York has had in the past. When the Bears have been gashed in the running game it has been through cutback lanes. The front seven has been sound and that's a tribute to the return of linebackers Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa.
3. Bright lights, big city
The Bears visited New York's teams on consecutive November weekends in 2006, sweeping the Giants and Jets after suffering their first loss of the season to the Dolphins. It was in that East Coast exposure that Rex Grossman's credentials began to be seriously questioned. He didn't perform well in a 10-0 victory over the Jets and never regained his swagger. What's the connection? A big performance by the Bears in the sport's biggest city on the bright stage of Sunday night could have the reverse effect for Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
4. Mettle winners
Because you're versed in Loviespeak, you know Smith divides the season into quarters. The Bears have the opportunity to finish the first quarter perfect even though it hasn't been that through three games. They have trailed in all three and in the fourth quarter of two of them. Those are valuable experiences moving forward and proof that the veteran team knows how to make breaks for itself. That's the difference between many teams that are destined to finish in the middle of the pack and those that are competing into January.