Ryan L. Fox
So far it’s been a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde season when it comes to the New England Patriots. At home, they are undefeated with a perfect 4-0 and have looked like the Belichick Patriots of old. However when they go on the road, it seems like they revert back to the Schaffer Stadium Patriots of old with blowout losses in Jacksonville in Week 2 and Detroit in Week 3.
For Week 7, they traveled to the Wind City of Chicago for a match up against the Chicago Bears. However the team would be traveling without two key offensive players (All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (back) and RT Marcus Cannon (concussion)). Against a hungry Bears team, the Patriots were going to be in a hostile environment on the road. However in the Windy City, the winds were able to push the Patriots in the direction that they wanted to go.
The Patriots began the game, receiving the opening kickoff. They began their first possession of the game at their own 25. The offense seemed to be clicking due to the work of running backs Sony Michel and James White. Combined, they had 3 carries for 30 yards and 2 catches for 27 yards on that drive. The Patriots got all the way down to the Chicago 9 where on 3rd and 1, QB Tom Brady found WR Julian Edelman in the end zone for the score. However on the plan, WR Chris Hogan was injured on the play (he would return later in the game). Kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted the PAT as the Patriots got the early 7-0.
After the two teams exchanged punts with one another, the Bears got the ball back on their own 37. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was able to lead his team down the field, getting the ball as far as the New England 28. But the Bears had to settle for a field goal. Kicker Cody Parkey booted the 46 yarder through the uprights as the Bears cut into the Patriots’ lead 7-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, Patriots WR/KR Cordarelle Patterson ended up fumbling the ball at the New England 22. Bears backup S DeAndre Houston-Carson recovered the ball at the New England 24, setting the Bears offense with good field position.
The Bears were able to run the ball all the way to the New England 8. Then on 3rd and 5, Trubisky dropped back to pass. However he felt the rush coming at him as he started to run as far back to the 30 yard line. However Trubisky eluded Patriots DE Adrian Clayborn, spinning to the left side of the field where there was open space. With blockers in front, the Bears QB ran the 8 yards as he needed to cross into the end zone. Parkey’s booted the PAT to give the Bears their first lead of the game 10-7.
Patterson brought back the ensuing kickoff to his own 18. There, the Patriots ended the first quarter with Brady finding WR Josh Gordon for a 20 yard pass to the New England 38.
On the opening play of the second quarter, RB Sony Michel took the handoff to the left side of the line. However Bears DT Bilal Nichols tackled Michel, spinning him to the ground. The ball them appeared to come out as it was recovered by Nichols at the New England 36. To add more bad news, Michel was injured on the play as Nichols landed on his knee while tackling the rookie running back to the ground.
The Bears were able to drive down the field, including converting a 4th and 4 on the New England 30 with a 17 yard pass from Trubisky to TE Trey Burton. Along the way, the Patriots defense was penalized 3 times with 2 being accepted by the Bears to extend the drive. The offense got all the way down to the New England 2 where on 2nd and goal, RB Jordan Howard bowled his way over for the score.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Patterson caught the ball on his own 5. He got a few blocks, including a key one by Hogan that sprung him free. After eluding Parkey, Patterson saw nothing but green as he high-stepped into the end zone for a 95 yard kick return touchdown. Gostkowski’s booted the PAT as the score was 17-14, cutting the Bears’ momentum before it could start.
After forcing a Bears punt, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 36. Brady was able to get the offense down field, but they began to stall once they crossed into Chicago territory. But on 4th and 1 on the Chicago 42, Brady found Gordon for a big 19 yard pass to keep the drive alive. With a new set of downs, the Patriots got down to the Chicago 5. On 3rd and goal, Brady saw White in the flat and was able to connect with a 5 yard touchdown. The Gostkowski PAT then made it 21-17 with a little under 4 minutes left in the half.
The score remained that way for the rest of the half as both teams exchanged punts with one another.
The Bears got the ball at their own 42 thanks to a big return by RB/KR Benny Cunningham along with a face mask penalty on Patriots S/ST Nate Ebner. They were able to get all the way down to the New England 1, mostly thanks to a 39 yard scramble by Trubisky that would make Fran Tarkenton proud on 1st and 10 at the New England 40. A penalty back the Bears up to the New England 6 where on 3rd and goal, Trubisky found RB Tank Cohen for a 6 yard touchdown pass. Parkey’s PAT then made it 24-21 in favor of the home team.
A 29 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski on the ensuing Patriots possession was able to tie the game up at 24-24 with a little under 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
The Bears got the ball back and started at their own 24. The offense got as far as their own 45 as they were forced to punt. However Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower was able to burst through the line and block P Patrick O’Donnell’s punt attempt. The ball bounced back to the Chicago 29 as teammate LB Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up, returning it all the way for the score. Gostkowski’s PAT made it 31-24.
Trying to get back into the game, Trubisky decided to air the ball out on the next Bears’ possession. After three consecutive completions, Trubisky followed it up with two consecutive incompletions. Then on 3rd and 10 from the New England 41, Trubisky looked deep for WR Josh Bellamy. However his pass was picked off by CB J.C. Jackson at the New England 21, killing that drive.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Bears got the ball back on their own 14. Again, the Bears relied on Trubisky’s arm to get them back into the game. But like the last Bears drive, this one ended in a costly interception. This time it was on 1st and 10 at the New England 4 by CB Jonathan Jones.
This time, the Patriots made the Bears pay for their mistake. They were able to drive all the way to their own 44 where on 2nd and 10, Brady found Gordon for a magnificent 55 yard pass all the way down to the Chicago 1. Two plays later, Brady found White for a 2 yard touchdown pass. The Gostkowski PAT made it 38-24 with just over 8:30 left in the 4th quarter.
After forcing the Bears to punt, the Patriots got the ball back in excellent starting position at the Chicago 43. But on 3rd and 2 at the Chicago 39, Brady threw the ball to FB James Devlin in the flat. However Bears S Adrian Amos Jr. ripped the ball out of Devlin’s hands and into the hands of teammate CB Kyle Fuller.
Trubisky led a No Huddle offense down the field with the clock ticking, carving up the Patriots defense. They got down all the way to the New England 11. There, Trubisky found Burton in the endzone for the 11 yard touchdown. Parkey’s PAT made the score 38-31, pulling the Bears within a touchdown with a little over 4 minutes left of the game.
The Patriots got the ball back and decided to take a conservative approach. For the entire length of the drive, the Patriots just gave the ball to White to run the clock down. They got down to the Chicago 33 where Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to punt the ball rather go for the 50+ yard field goal attempt by Gostkowski.
With 24 seconds left in the game and no time outs, Trubisky led one final attempt for the Bears to score and potentially tie the game. The Bears got up to their own 45 as with 2 seconds left in the game, Trubisky threw the ball up for one last Hail Mary pass. Bears WR Kevin White ended up catching the ball at the New England 1 but a gaggle of Patriots defenders, led by S Duron Harmon, stood up White and prevented him from breaking the plane of the end zone.
The Patriots were able to escape with the 38-31 victory, getting their first road victory of the season.
Notable Patriot Standouts
QB Tom Brady: 25-for-36 for 277 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT for a QB Rating of 108.2
RB James White: 11 carries for 40 yards, 8 catches (on 10 targets) for 57 yards and 2 TDs
WR Josh Gordon: 4 catches (on 7 targets) for 100 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 5 catches (on 8 targets) for 36 yards and 1 TD
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: 1 carry for 4 yards, 4 kick returns for 179 yards and 1 TD, 1 fumble lost
LB Dont’a Hightower: 5 tackles (5 solo, 0 assist), 1 blocked punt
LB Kyle Van Noy: 6 tackles (6 solo, 0 assist), 1 blocked punt return for a TD
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
4 – The consecutive number of games that the Patriots have scored 21+ points before halftime (last time was back in the 2012 season)
40 – The total number of rushing yards RB James White had for the game, making him the leading rusher for the Patriots for the first time in his career with the team
2- The number of special teams touchdowns the Patriots scored in the game, the first time since 2010
.246 – The winning percentage (15-46) of rookie head coaches against Bill Belichick since 2000
453 – The total number of net yards allowed by the Patriots defense, the 5th time this season they allowed an opponent to get over 400 total net yards this season
64 – Number of penalty yards the Patriots amassed for the game (on 7 penalties), the most up to this point this season
The Injury Bug Bites Back
With the season halfway point in the horizon, injuries are bound to pile up. However coming into the game, the injury bug came back and bit the Patriots hard.
Prior to the game, they were going into Week 7 without starting RT Marcus Canon as he was dealing with a concussion he suffered in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Then on Saturday, TE Rob Gronkowski was ruled out with a back injury.
But the biggest blow came during the game itself.
On the first play of the second quarter, rookie RB Sony Michel took a handoff by Brady and ran up the left side of the line. However he was tackled by Bears DT Bilal Nichols and ended up fumbling the ball. But during the play as Nichols was bringing Michel down, the rookie running back’s knee twisted in an awkward position as he was being brought down. This is an incredible red flag since Michel’s college career with knee injuries.
Even though the mantra of the Patriots has always been ‘next man up’, losing key contributors before and during a game is something you never want to see happen.
Coaches always preach that there are 3 facets of the game of football: offense, defense, and special teams. And let’s be honest, Nothing puts a smile (yes, he can do that) on Bill Belichick’s face than when special teams makes a big time play. In Sunday’s game against the Bears, the Patriots special teams made not one but two big plays that ultimately helped the Patriots win.
First was the Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return for a touchdown.
Earlier in the game, Patterson had fumbled on a kickoff return that lead to a Bears score. The Bears had scored and were up 17-7 at that point, looking to put away the Patriots early. Patterson took the kickoff and head up the field, breaking through and juking the Bears kickoff coverage team. Once in the open field, Patterson just simply turned on the afterburners and outran everybody into the end zone for the score.
Then later on in the 3rd quarter with the game tied at 24-24, the Bears were forced to punt. As P Patrick O’Donnell’s was in the process of punting the ball away, Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower burst through the line to block the kick. The ball then proceeded to bounce back to the Chicago 29 as LB Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up, returning it all the way for the score to make it 31-24.
These two special teams plays were in fact the key to the Patriots’ victory.
The Patterson touchdown not only allowed the Patriots to get back into the game, it halted the Bears momentum as it seemed they were poised to run away with the game. Then the Van Noy touchdown, it gave the Patriots a lead that the team would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Although there were some blunders on special teams in the game (Patterson's kickoff fumble and WR/PR Julian Edelman nearly muffing a punt), one could say that these two particular plays definitely make up for those blunders. However this guy says that without those two plays, the Patriots would still be searching for their first road win of the season.
Fox Fist Bump
This week’s Fox Fist Bump goes to RB James White. With no Gronk and Sony Michel going down early with an injury, the Patriots looked to White to carry the load on offense and he delivered. Not only did he amass 40 tough yards on the ground (including carrying the ball the entire way on the Patriots’ last possession), he was clutch in the passing game (57 yards) and in the red zone (2 touchdown receptions). Depending on how long Michel is out with the injury, White might be looked on as the go-to running back but I’m pretty sure he is more than able to fulfill that role.
No meatballs this week.
Play of the Game
Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That
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