Hub Arkush: Bears get a win, but didn't show improvement

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Chicago Bears' Matt Forte is taken down in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game against the New York Giants October 10, 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago. (Sarah Nader)

Robbie Gould is really good.

Other than that, it was impossible to determine whether what we watched at Soldier Field Thursday night was just really bad football, or the Bears playing down to the level of the opposition.

So let's start with what matters. As I've said 1,000 times before, there are no style points in the NFL. The Bears badly needed a win to halt a two-game losing streak and retain at least a piece of first place in the NFC North. Mission accomplished.

Even with Charles Tillman out for the first time since 2009, Bears cornerbacks continued to do what they do best and were the difference in the game.

On the opening possession, Eli Manning ran just two plays before he managed to find Zack Bowman in relief of Tillman wide open at the Giants' 36 and threw him the interception. Bowman returned it 24 yards to the Giants' 12. But the Bears managed just eight yards on four plays, going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Giants' 4 with Jay Cutler throwing the ball behind Brandon Marshall.

Why Marc Trestman left three points on the field was a bit of a mystery.

Not to be deterred, Manning ran just four more plays before dropping on first and 10 from his own 45 to find a wide open Tim Jennings at his 48 with nothing but painted green grass between him and the endzone. It was 7-0 Bears and the game was over, so it seemed.

The Giants would tie the score twice and close to within six points at 27-21 with six seconds left in the third quarter, but the outcome was never really in doubt, or was it?

Other than Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, and a rejuvenated Brandon Jacobs, who seemed determined to prove he doesn't belong on the street, the opponent was a Giants team seemingly bent on proving it deserved to be 0-6. But the Bears just didn't seem to want to let them do it.

To the Bears credit, there was improvement in several areas from their disappointing performance four days earlier against the Saints.

Jay Cutler was rarely pressured and never sacked. While the Giants did almost no blitzing, the Bears' offensive line appeared to have cleaned up whatever communication and reading problems it was having.

Cutler targeted eight different receivers in the first three quarters, two more than he targeted in the first five games combined.

He also saw to it that Brandon Marshall's nine targets were almost twice as many as the five he aimed at Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, and four for Alshon Jeffery. Earl Bennett was targeted once and Joe Anderson, Michael Bush and Tony Fiammetta were each targeted for the first time this season, Fiammetta catching the pass for a 30-yard gain that set up the Bears second touchdown.

And the passing game was again productive, if less than consistent or in rhythm.

Unfortunately, there was no improvement from a front four that once again failed to provide any meaningful pressure on Manning. The Bears' only quarterback sack came from Lance Briggs on a blitz.

Also disappointing was the tally at the end of the third quarter that showed the Bears had run the ball just 15 times and dropped to pass 30 times. At least Trestman has never threatened to get off the bus running.

And with all of that, the Bears kept a woeful Giants team in the game, turning the ball over with 5:00 remaining at their own 11 and watching them drive to the Bears' 35, mainly on the running of Jacobs, before Manning put both teams out of their misery, overthrowing his tight end, Brandon Myers, and finding Jennings for his second pick of the game.

Yes, the Bears are 4-2 with 10 days rest before traveling to Washington. But they left this game with more questions to answer than they went in with.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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