Since their bye week, the New York Giants have strung together three games where the offensive line has been pretty solid.
Sure, there have been hiccups here or there, but the play of the much-maligned line has much improved drastically.
Now, though, they face Khalil Mack on Sunday. And that is a “Mack Sack Attack.”
The Giants face perhaps the steepest test of the season in asking their line to try to block Mack, one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the game. The addition of Mack in a trade this year has transformed the Chicago Bears’ defense, turning them into a legitimate contender to make a deep playoff run.
Mack has 28 tackles and eight sacks this year while facing double teams on nearly every snap. He’s a major reason why the Bears are 8-3 and lead the NFC North.
“The only thing I can say is he’s good as advertised,” running back Saquon Barkley said.
“He’s probably the best defensive player in the league. He’s an active player. He’s big, fast, strong. He’s everything you want in an outside linebacker/[defensive end]. He’s definitely going to be a challenge this week, but we’ve played great players before and we’ve just got to come out ready to compete and ready to work.”
This is a tough matchup for quarterback Eli Manning, who is coming off three solid games. As the line play has improved, Manning has had the chance to throw down the field, a major reason why he has six touchdowns and just one interception during that stretch.
Not shockingly, the Giants won two of those three games since the bye week.
But Mack is such a powerful, fast-twitch player off the edge that he is dominant no matter the offensive scheme. He is seemingly always in the backfield and a threat to blow up the play anytime a quarterback drops back in the pocket to pass. This means that Manning may not have much time in the pocket or risk throwing from his back.
The tackle tandem of Nate Solder and Chad Wheeler have their hands full on Sunday, so some of the responsibility to try and slow down Mack will fall on Barkley who will undoubtedly have to chip in and block in the backfield.
“He’s a great edge rusher, he has a good combination of speed and power,” Wheeler said. “He brings a lot to the table, so we’ve got to do the same.”
Establishing the running game will certainly help negate Mack’s effect on the pass rush, but the Bears possess the second-best run defense in the league, allowing just a hair over 80 rushing yards per game. So it likely will fall on Manning’s sense to deliver the ball quickly to his receivers so as not to end up as another victim of a Mack attack.
“He’s everything and more than we thought,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “As I tell everybody, you know from going against him, I know from going against him in Kansas City what type of player he was when you have to compete against him. When you bring him into practice and you see who the person is within the four walls of the building, and you see how he is as a human being and his character and how he’s a leader, it just makes it even better.”
[Watch Giants 1st & 10 Friday at 6:30 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]