The Bears forced five turnovers, including three consecutive plays in a 20-point explosion late in the first half, in beating the Giants 28-21 on Sunday.
“We made plays when we really needed to,” said defensive end Alex Brown, who had four of the Bears’ seven sacks. “They scored two quick touchdowns, but we knew we had to stay in our gap and play ball. They couldn’t drive the ball on us. We got a sack, we got a turnover and things kind of rolled from there.”
Rookie Craig Krenzel threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to ignite the rally and Anthony Thomas scored on runs 4 and 41 yards as Chicago (3-5) won its second straight game and handed the Giants (5-3) their second straight embarrassing home loss.
“They played the kind of game we have been playing, let the other guy lose the game,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
What made the defeat more frustrating was NFC East leader Philadelphia (7-1) lost earlier in the day. The Giants also have to worry about a pectoral injury to All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan, who left in the third quarter.
New York, which came into the game with an NFC-best plus-12 takeaway differential, self-destructed after taking an early 14-0 lead on touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards by Tiki Barber.
Another 13-yard TD run by Barber seemed to give New York a 21-0 lead later in the quarter, but the play was called back by a holding penalty against Amani Toomer.
“I don’t really know what sparked us,” said Azumah, who also had an interception. “They scored two quick touchdowns on us and we basically said `Enough!’
New York, which also had 14 penalties for 109 yards, didn’t get on the board again until Warner (18-of-36 for 195 yards) threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey with 1:56 to play.
The Giants got a final chance when Jack Brewer recovered the onside kick at their 40. However, Warner was sacked two more times, and the Bears ran out the clock.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Giants center Wayne Lucier said. “We were rolling pretty good and we let some of their pressure get to us. It was pressure every play. You turn the ball over like that, you’re not going to win. It was a nightmare.”
The Giants allowed the Bears to score 20 points in the final 5:13 of the opening half. The last 17 points came after New York turned over the ball on three straight plays: a fumble by Ike Hilliard and two interceptions.
With a first-and-20 at the Chicago 37, Krenzel (8-of-21 for 144 yards and no interceptions) needed only two plays to get Chicago on the board. He hit David Terrell for 28 yards and found Bernard Berrian for 35-yard score down the right sideline.
After safety Mike Green forced and recovered a fumble by Hilliard at the Giants 29, the Bears needed only two plays and two penalties to tie the game. Thomas walked into the end zone on a 4-yard sweep with 2:35 left in the half.
On the Giants’ first place from scrimmage, Vasher intercepted a pass off Toomer’s hands and returned it 41 yards, setting up Paul Edinger’s go-ahead 22-yard field goal. Green had a big hit on Toomer in setting up the interception.
A questionable holding penalty against Kevin Green on the ensuing kickoff nullified a great return by Willie Ponder inside the Bears 15.
New York started instead from its 30 and Azumah intercepted an ill-advised pass by Warner to Shockey at the Giants 46. A 33-yard pass to Bobby Wade set up a 21-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
The Giants had a chance to take the lead early in the third quarter when linebacker Nick Greisen recovered a lateral at the Chicago 18. However, Brown sacked Warner and forced a fumble on second down and Ian Scott caught the ball in midair for the turnover.
Thomas’ long TD run in the fourth quarter and Krenzel’s 2-point run gave the Bears a 28-14 lead.
… Giants starting center Shaun O’Hara missed his second straight game because of a leg infection. … Toomer caught a pass for the 91st consecutive game. … Barber has scored a touchdown in six straight games. … Thomas finished with 110 yards on 28 carries, a 3.9 yard average. …The teams combined for 489 yards in total offense. There were 17 punts, 10 for Brad Maynard of the Bears.