Not their best work: ’Sloppy . . . undisciplined’ Bears defense pays the price
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Bears’ defense was in all its glory after back-to-back sacks of Giants quarterback Eli Manning by outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in the last minute of the first half Sunday.
And then it got caught napping. On third-and-23 from the Giants’ 30 with 17 seconds left in the half, rookie running back Saquon Barkley darted and dashed his way to a 22-yard gain to the Bears’ 48. On fourth-and-one with six seconds left, Manning threw a nine-yard pass to tight end Rhett Ellison. That set up a 57-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas that cut the Bears’ lead to 14-10 at halftime.
Suddenly, a defense that had been dominant was vulnerable. After allowing 74 yards on 24 plays before Barkley’s run, the Bears allowed 266 yards on 44 plays the rest of the way in a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants.
‘‘They just made the play,’’ linebacker Danny Trevathan said. ‘‘We wouldn’t like for that to happen, but this game is tough to get a win. We’ve just got to get back to work.’’
The Bears were accomplishing their No. 1 goal of stopping Barkley, who came into the game as the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL with 829 yards. He had only 21 yards on his first six carries until the 22-yard run that gave the Giants hope.
‘‘We were [playing] back, so you’re expecting him to gain a little something,’’ linebacker Roquan Smith said. ‘‘You’re giving him a few yards, but he made a little more out of it, and that’s what you expect from good players. They take advantage of their opportunities.’’
But it was the pass to Ellison that put Rosas in field-goal range.
‘‘That was just our defense being undisciplined,’’ cornerback Prince Amukamara said. ‘‘[Coordinator Vic Fangio] called the right call. It’s an ‘outside victory,’ meaning keep everything inside, and the tight end got outside.’’
Barkley’s big run gave the Giants confidence and ‘‘smacked us in the mouth,’’ Amukamara said. And the impact carried over. On the first play of the second half, Barkley broke a tackle attempt by Smith for a 14-yard gain. The Giants scored on a trick play three plays later, with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. throwing a 49-yard touchdown pass to wide-open receiver Russell Shepard for a 17-14 lead.
‘‘It was just a good play-call by them,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He made a good throw, and that was that.’’
The defense struggled to finish. After a pass-interference call on Amukamara gave the Giants a first-and-goal at the 1 later in the third quarter, the Bears stuffed Barkley for no gain on consecutive plays. After an incomplete pass, the Giants went for the touchdown on fourth-and-one and got it when Manning threw to a wide-open Beckham crossing from right to left in the end zone.
The defense still had a chance for redemption after the offense rallied for 10 points in the last 1:49 of regulation to force overtime. But on the first play of overtime, Barkley gained 29 yards to the Bears’ 46, leading to Rosas’ decisive 44-yard field goal.
‘‘It was kind of sloppy out there,’’ Trevathan said. ‘‘[We] don’t make excuses. Our defense is trying to fly around and make a play. It wasn’t our best game, but I feel like we still played good. We’ll be back next week better than ever.’’