Oct 26, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) gestures after catching the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots welcomed the Chicago Bears into Gillette Stadium with open arms. A 31 point second quarter effectively ended the game by halftime as the Patriots offense and defense likely drew the ire of P.E.T.A. for their abuse of the Bears. Whether it was long drives, big plays, third-down conversions, the Patriots had them all clicking. Add in some big stops by an injury-depleted defense and New England had the formula for success against Chicago.
With running back Jonas Gray (17 rushes for 86 yards) running hard, wide receiver Brandon LaFell (11 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown) having a signature performance as a Patriot, and tight end Rob Gronkowski (9 receptions for 124 yards and 3 touchdowns) basically unstoppable the Bears defense was back on their heels and did not force a punt until well into the second half of the game. Quarterback Tom Brady (30 of 35 for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns) had his sharpest performance of the season as the Bears took away slot wide receiver Julian Edelman but no one in the Bears secondary could slow Gronkowski and LaFell.
The defense held the Bears passing attack in check as cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner matched-up with the Bears dynamic duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around both Jeffery and Marshall had just two receptions each with Marshall having the longest reception of the duo for 17 yards. The two big cornerbacks for New England blanketed and out-muscled the Bears duo used to using their size and strength against smaller cornerbacks.
The statsheet would show running back Matt Forte having a big game, but much of his work came after the Bears were way behind and the outcome clearly in the Patriots’ favor. Forte made a great route adjustment on the Bears’ first touchdown of the game as he pulled in a 25 yard pass to cut the lead to 17 to 7 in the second quarter. Dont’a Hightower was in control of the Patriots defense and they were able to communicate, get the defense in position despite the Bears in a hurry-up offense, and get the defense off the field in the first half.
Newly acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers showed his appreciation in being able to escape Tennessee where he was glued to the sidelines and stepped in and showed some strong pass rush with Chandler Jones sidelined. The Bears scored two second-half touchdowns, but by then the Patriots were up big and the defense was trying to keep the clock running and get the game over with to start focusing on the Denver Broncos next week.
Oct 26, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) takes the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
For the Patriots, it was an offensive performance that was clicking like it had not done all season. With the top offensive line starting, the line gave Brady time to find his open receiver and made space for the running game. The return of rookie center Bryan Stork and left guard Dan Connolly made a dramatic impact on the offensive line. With Ryan Wendell back at right guard both left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer seemed much more comfortable next to a veteran guard.
The Bears boasted a pass-rushing front with former Lions defensive end Willie Young, interior linemen Stephen Paea and Jay Ratliff, and veteran ends Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen. On Sunday none of them seemed capable of laying a hand on Brady as the ball flew out quickly and the receivers were open quickly against the Bears’ decimated secondary. The one sack by Houston was marred by his ridiculous celebration while down 25 points resulting in him hurting his knee and being carted off the field. It was that kind of day for the Bears defense.
Already without top cornerback Charles Tillman for the season, impressive rookie Kyle Fuller was banged-up as he retweaked his hip and Al Louis-Jean was pressed into action and promptly picked-on repeatedly by Brady. Of course, Fuller was not exempt from being picked on by the veteran quarterback, as Brady and LaFell worked on Fuller early in the game as well.
This was a great performance by the Patriots as they avoided the trap of looking past the Bears to their big match-up next week against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Scoring 50 points in a game is a great accomplishment regardless of the team, and beating the Bears 51 to 23 was a fantastic team performance.