New England Patriots Week Eight Match-up vs Chicago Bears: Final Pregame Thoughts


Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback

Tom Brady

(12) celebrates a touchdown against the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots welcome the Chicago Bears to Gillette Stadium this afternoon. The Bears may be have a losing record so far in 2014, but the Monsters of the Midway have an offense that has big-play receivers and the most versatile running back in the league in Matt Forte. On defense, their defensive line play is superb and they have solid players in the secondary–especially with impressive rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller upgraded to “Probable” and likely to play.


The Patriots are dealing with a strange week as after losing starting running back Stevan Ridley and defensive captain and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo to season-ending injuries, now news reports indicate that defensive end Chandler Jones’ hip injury could be more severe than initially indicated. Jones is far and away the best pass rushing threat on the Patriots’ roster and his loss is a big one. Looking back at the game tape, Jones clearly hurt his hip chasing Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the second quarter and limped off the field for a few snaps before finishing the game.


The injury–per Jason LaCanfora at CBS Sports–is not a torn labrum and will not require surgery. However, a bevy of reports later by many of the beat writers around the Patriots indicated the injury could be more than six weeks and could impact his season. With the Patriots’ record of releasing injury information and misinformation to those around the team, there is no way to know what the situation is for Jones short of him giving a straight answer (which simply will not happen in New England anytime soon).


Oct 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots center

Bryan Stork

(66) lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. New England Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 43-17. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

There is good news on the injury front, as the interior offensive line may be back together with impressive rookie center Bryan Stork and veteran Dan Connolly both upgraded to “Questionable”  on the injury report prior to today’s game. The return of one or both is a huge lift for the Patriots. Per ESPN’s Stats & Information, the Patriots have had nine different offensive linemen play at least 100 snaps, tied for the most in the league. Furthermore, New England is the only team to play six different players for at least 100 snaps at the three interior offensive line positions.


With Marcus Cannon back at tackle and Stork and Connolly inside with a revitalized center/guard Ryan Wendell, the interior line has shown some strong pass-protection and power blocking in the running game again. Josh Kline held his own against the Jets strong interior line after a rough first start against Buffalo in week six, but the biggest upgrade will be replacing young guard Jordan Devey who was simply destroyed by the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Keeping Devey and Kline on the sidelines and continuing their development at practice and not on the field is important for keeping quarterback Tom Brady upright.


With the offensive line set and more practice time, the Patriots should be integrating Jonas Gray and his hard-charging running style into the offense. Last week against the Jets the New England ran the ball just 15 times. They were able to win thanks to another big performance by Brady, but they need to get balance on offense again.  Gray played just a dozen snaps and had just three rushing attempts against New York and he should top that in the first half against the Bears.


The Patriots will also be looking to incorporate tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen in the passing game as both Lance Briggs and Jon Bostic are listed as “Doubtful” and that weakens an already weak Bears linebacking group. Behind Briggs and Bostic are underachieving veteran D.J. Williams, second-year player Khaseem Greene, former Houston Texan Darryl Sharpton,  and 2012 first-round bust outside linebacker Shea McClellin.  If Brady sees Williams, Greene, Sharpton or McClellin locked up on Gronkowski or Vereen he has a mismatch that could lead to a big play.


Oct 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end

Ed Dickson

(84) catches the ball as Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest boost for the Bears is the return of rookie first-round draft pick cornerback Kyle Fuller as he was initially expected to miss the game with a hip pointer and broken hand. Fuller had returned to practice Thursday with a brace on his hand and seemed to be moving well enough to play as he is listed as “Probable” on the injury report. With safety Chris Conte also “Probable” the Bears secondary should be at full strength after looking like they could miss some key contributors early in the week.