After rallying to overcome a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win their season opener last weekend in Detroit, the Bears entered Sunday's contest against the Giants determined to play with more consistency throughout the entire game.
Although they were unable to accomplish that goal, a defensive stand as time expired enabled the Bears to record a dramatic victory for the second straight week.
Sunday's 17-13 win was a tale of two halves, with the Bears taking a 17-0 halftime lead before being outscored 13-0 in the second half. The Giants (0-2) had a chance to win the game on the final play from the Bears' 10. But veteran receiver Golden Tate drew an offensive pass interference penalty for pushing nickel back Buster Skrine as time expired. Eddie Jackson broke up the Daniel Jones pass to Tate just in case.
A week earlier in Detroit, the defense kept the Lions from scoring a go-ahead touchdown on the final three plays of the game from the Bears' 16. On the penultimate play, rookie running back D'Andre Swift dropped a sure touchdown pass.
Sunday's win likely won't inspire the theatrics from NFL Films that the Bears' Week 1 victory undoubtedly deserved. But all that matters is that they're 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
"The way that ended, the guys are tired, and the way it went with scoring no points in the second half, it certainly doesn't feel as exciting as it was last week when we won with a comeback and scoring all of our points in the fourth quarter," said coach Matt Nagy.
"But I also told our guys, 'Now listen, it is not easy to win in this league—I don't care who you're playing—and we're 2-0.' So what we've got to do now is we've got to go back and we've got to balance out, 'OK, where are we at as a team right now? Do we like our identity: offense, defense, special teams? How can we get better?' And that's what we'll do. I have all the confidence in the world with our coaches and then the players, they'll criticize themselves, too."
Veteran defensive tackle Akiem Hicks knows that corrections need to be made, but Sunday's win left a great taste in his mouth.
"I don't care how you get it, 2-0 is delicious," Hicks said. "I'll eat that every day of the week and twice on Sunday. There's bumps in the road during the course of the game and you've got to be able to pick yourself back up and keep fighting."
That's exactly what the Bears defense did Sunday. After holding the Giants scoreless and generating two takeaways in the first half, the unit allowed one touchdown and two field goals on three possessions bridging the second and third quarters.
But the defense ultimately kept the Giants out of the end zone when it mattered most, capping a performance that was a vast improvement over last Sunday. After allowing 23 points and 426 yards to the Lions, the Bears held the Giants to 13 points and 295 yards.
"For [the defense] to keep [the Giants] where they were, with 13 total points in this game and getting those turnovers, and then playing pretty well this game, you've got to be pretty happy with that," Nagy said. "I'm happy with them. We can always play better. Our guys always expect a lot … It does take a little bit of time as you start kind of creating who you are. But the only thing that matters right now is the 2-0 [record], and then we've just got to make sure that any area we can, we just keep getting better at it."
“I don’t care how you get it, 2-0 is delicious. I’ll eat that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks
Unlike the season opener, the Bears offense started strong Sunday, scoring a touchdown and field goal on its first two possessions. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards with two touchdowns and a 136.1 rating in the first half. But Trubisky connected on just 5 of 10 passes for only 31 yards and two interceptions in the second half.
The Bears' four second-half possessions resulted in two interceptions, one punt and a missed 50-yard field goal.
"Coming out in the third or fourth quarter, we need to be better offensively," Nagy said. "We have to score more points. It didn't happen. But for our defense to be able to hold these guys at the very end now for two games in a row, we like that."
As the Bears prepare to visit the Falcons next Sunday in Atlanta, Nagy is thrilled that his team is 2-0, but knows there's room for improvement on both sides of the ball.
"I would say we're just OK right now," Nagy said. "I think we expect a little better. But I'm not criticizing our players and coaches. That's a part of being in the second week [of the regular season] with no preseason. We have high expectations and we want to be better. I think that just speaks to who our guys are as people."