EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Last week, New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo stunned onlookers when he decided to go for it twice on fourth-and-short yardage, with his team converting one of those two attempts in a one-point win over Cincinnati.
On Sunday, McAdoo -- who's quickly challenging Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera for the "Riverboat" moniker -- rolled the dice again twice on fourth down, his team converting both opportunities.
Both of the fourth-down conversions were huge in that they led to scores in New York's 22-16 win over the Chicago Bears.
On the first one, the Giants had the ball on Chicago's 17-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning hit receiver Sterling Shepard for a 15-yard gain to set up first-and-goal on the Bears' 2-yard line. On the ensuing play, running back Rashad Jennings' touchdown tied the game at 6-6 (the PAT by kicker Robbie Gould failed).
On the second fourth-down attempt, this coming in the second quarter, the Giants had the ball on the Bears' 33-yard line. This time, Manning connected with Jennings for a five-yard gain. Four plays later, Gould converted a 46-yard field goal.
"Before the game, McAdoo told me, 'Expect that if we get into around the 30-yard line or so that we'll be going for it on fourth down some because it's going to be tough possibly kicking field goals with the wind,'" Manning said. "We kind of had that mindset that if we can get into fourth and manageable situations, we might go for it on a few of them."
While some teams might get nervous taking such a gamble, especially when the common school of thought is to take the field goal if close enough, the Giants don't' seem bothered by the challenge.
"Whatever the situation, guys don't get nervous; they get excited about the opportunity to continue the drive," Manning said.
"We have confidence in the guys to be able to punch it in there, so going for it on fourth down seemed pretty natural," McAdoo said, echoing Manning's revelation that the game elements were indeed a factor in the decision to go for it.
REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- The offensive line did well to stop the Bears from "tearing up" their derrieres and sacking quarterback Eli Manning. However, Manning did end up being hit four times and pressured more than a dozen times more as each member of the offensive line took a turn in allowing a pressure. the result? Manning completed just 58 percent of his passes for 227 yards, averaging just 6.3 yards per pass attempt (36 attempts).
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The good news is the Giants recorded their second straight 100-yard rushing performance as a team in as many weeks. The bad news is that most of the rushing yardage between the tackles went nowhere, as the offensive line couldn't create creases on a consistent basis to spring the duo of Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins for yardage. New York had far better success bouncing runs to the outside. Per Pro Football Focus, Jennings, the team rushing leader with 85 yards on 21 carries, averaged 5.7 yards on rushes outside of the guards and just 0.7 yards on runs behind the interior offensive linemen.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Except for tight end Zach Miller, who had 61 yards, no Bears receiver had more than 50 yards as the Giants cornerbacks were all over the Bears receivers down the field. Toss in a pass rush that came alive in the second half that recorded four sacks, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble, and you have a big reason why the Giants were able to shut out Chicago's offense in the second half.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Giants held the Bears to under 93 yards rushing for the game, but the story of the run defense was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they struggled to contain Jordan Howard, who had 72 yards on 12 carries in the first half, a fair number of those runs coming to the left side. In the second half, the Giants run defense clamped down on Howard, holding him to five yards on five carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- For the second straight week, the kickoff unit allowed a big return, this time a 40-yarder by Deonte Thompson. Giants return specialist Dwayne Harris continues to make some head-scratching decisions regarding whether to bring balls kicked into the end zone out -- so far most those decisions have ended with the ball falling short of the 25-yard line. Harris, who is now dealing with toe and wrist injuries, also had a muff. But it was the two missed PATs by kicker Robbie Gould that were most disappointing. Gould is a seasoned veteran who spent 11 years kicking in windy Chicago; that he struggled with the Meadowlands' swirling winds was disappointing and could have come back to haunt the Giants.
COACHING: B -- The coaching staff came in with a more varied plan this week given the uncertainty of the conditions. While some might have had a problem with how Ben McAdoo called the pays on the Giants' four-minute offense in the fourth quarter, the rookie head coach was likely banking on his running game, which had otherwise been solid throughout, to close out the game and keep the Bears offense off the field. Given the windy conditions, it was the right way to go. On the defensive side of the ball, Steve Spagnuolo continues to be a master at making halftime adjustments. His biggest tweak resulted in the run defense holding running back Jordan Howard to just five carries for five yards in the second half. On special teams, Tom Quinn needs to figure out why his kickoff coverage unit has now allowed two big returns in as many weeks and to also get with kicker Robbie Gould on navigating his way through the unpredictable winds he's likely going to continue to face as the mercury in the thermometer drops.