Chicago Sun-Times

BARKLEY OR BEARS, BUT NOT BOTH

De­fense brac­ing for Giants RB, who also had rough first week

- PA­TRICK FIN­LEY pfin­ley@sun­times.com | @patrick­fin­ley

Ask Chuck Pagano whom Giants run­ning back Saquon Barkley re­minds him of, and he talks it through.

“Who’s the great­est hur­dler that you’ve seen?” the Bears’ de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor said Thurs­day. “The guy that can be run­ning full speed, jump over the top of a guy, land on one foot, spin, put his hand down, keep his bal­ance, keep run­ning north and south, gain­ing more yards. This guy’s a spe­cial, spe­cial tal­ent.”

Then he comes to the an­swer. “Earl Camp­bell,” he said.

The for­mer Oil­ers great is one of 12 run­ning backs on the NFL’s all-cen­tury team.

“He’ll run around you, run through you,” Pagano said of Barkley. “[He’s] got speed. Once he gets in the open field, he’ll take it the distance.”

If Barkley had run be­hind the Lions’ of­fen­sive line last Sun­day, he might have. The Bears made 35-year-old Adrian Peter­son, who had been a free agent just a week ear­lier, look like the star he used to be.

They played with­out an­chor Ed­die Gold­man, the nose tackle who opted out be­cause of the coronaviru­s. Their de­fense was so poor that Peter­son, over four of his five long­est runs, racked up 52 yards be­fore a Bear even touched him. His av­er­age of 6.6 yards per carry was sec­ond-high­est among all NFL run­ning backs in Week 1.

“Af­ter last week, you know they’re go­ing to try to run the ball right at us,” Pagano said. “Whether it’s be­tween the tack­les, get [Barkley] on the edge, throw him the ball in the pass game, screens . . . we’ve got our hands full.”

Sun­day will be the third time in three sea­sons the Bears have faced Barkley. The first two meet­ings had dif­fer­ent re­sults.

As a rookie against the Bears in 2018, he ran 24 times for 125 yards and caught three passes for 21 more. He hur­dled safety Adrian Amos on one run; on an­other, he gained 22 yards on a third-and-23, was tack­led with six sec­onds left in the half and set up a 57-yard Giants field goal.

In last year’s meeting, Barkley played through a high-an­kle sprain, and it showed. The Bears held him to 59 yards on 17 car­ries — and 31 of those were dur­ing a fourth-quar­ter drive with the Bears ahead by 12.

“I don’t think we have to dis­cuss any­thing out of the nor­mal,” Bears cor­ner­back Kyle Fuller said. “But it does help that we’ve gone against him — we know what type of back he is. So we just have to do our job.”

Barkley re­turns to Sol­dier Field com­ing off per­haps the worst game of his ca­reer. In the Giants’ opener Mon­day night against the Steel­ers, he ran 15 times for six yards — yes, you read that right — and caught six passes for 60 yards. Thirty-eight yards came on a screen pass that ended only af­ter Barkley hur­dled Steel­ers cor­ner­back Mike Hilton.

Poor pass pro­tec­tion by Barkley led Giants all-time rush­ing leader Tiki Bar­ber, now a ra­dio host, to won­der this week if Barkely is truly a third-down back.

“Ob­vi­ously, Tiki is a leg­end — done a lot of great things for this fran­chise,” Barkley told Giants re­porters. “So I’m not go­ing to look at it as dis­re­spect. I’m go­ing to look at it as a chal­lenge.”

Giants coach Joe Judge promised bet­ter things.

“We’re go­ing to make sure we have ev­ery­one ris­ing up,” he said.

The Bears have spent the week pre­par­ing for Barkley, hop­ing to avoid a re­peat of mis­takes by their rush­ing de­fense in Week 1. But that only goes so far.

“X’s and O’s are just X’s and O’s,” nose tackle John Jenk­ins said. “It all de­pends on beat­ing the guy and out­play­ing the guy that’s in front of you.”

 ?? SETH WENIG/AP ?? Saquon Barkley fared hor­ri­bly in Week 1 against the Steel­ers with six rush­ing yards on 15 car­ries, but the Bears know bet­ter than to take him lightly.
SETH WENIG/AP Saquon Barkley fared hor­ri­bly in Week 1 against the Steel­ers with six rush­ing yards on 15 car­ries, but the Bears know bet­ter than to take him lightly.

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