By Brian Garland
In search of their first road win, the New England Patriots traveled to Soldier Field for a meeting with the Chicago Bears.
Chicago started the season 3-2 entering Sunday’s game. The Bears are characterized by their youth and growing pains, especially at the quarterback position with 2017 first round pick Mitchell Trubisky. They show flashes of playing like a good team, but they fail to put it all together.
The Bears offense is nothing special, with receivers such as Allen Robinson and Kevin White, and shifty running backs like Tarik Cohen.
The Bears’ pass rush terrorized offenses thus far with game-changing linebackers like Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, rookie Roquan Smith and newly acquired Pro Bowler Khalil Mack.
The Bears defense is solid in the middle and up front, but its cornerback and safety play are weaknesses.In response, New England’s game plan on offense set on picking Chicago’s cornerbacks with quick passes that allowed for Tom Brady to release the ball before the Bears’ linebackers could apply pressure.
All six-foot-three, 225 pounds of Patriots receiver Josh Gordon came into play on Sunday, reaching up for passes from Brady that only a player with his size and strength could come down with. Gordon caught four passes for 100 yards, nearly missing a touchdown in the third quarter.
This was a bounce back game for receiver Chris Hogan, who shined in the pass game and with his blocking for his most complete performance this year, catching six passes for 63 yards.
Pass catching running back James White took over for rookie Sony Michel early in the game. White compiled 97 total yards with eight receptions, and his steady hands also kept Tom Brady on his feet.
Quick intermediate passes were a staple of the Patriots offense to avoid the Bears pass rush and break down Chicago’s cornerbacks. As rookie Sony Michel exited the game with a knee injury, New England’s rushing game was not at its usual pace. James White and veteran Kenjon Barner split carries in the rookie’s absence. Sony Michel does not have a timetable for his return from injury, though there is no structural damage in his knee, so a mid-season return is promising for Michel.
This was another solid week for the offensive line from Trent Brown to Shaq Mason. Although Bears linebacker Khalil Mack limped with a bad knee, the offensive line kept Tom Brady safe in the pocket.
The Patriot defense struggled especially in the first quarter due to costly turnovers and its inability to match the speed of Chicago’s play makers. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was effective in rushing himself to gain important yardage. Late in the game however, the defense took away Trubisky’s running options by dropping back an extra defensive back.
This challenged the rookie quarter back to make precise throws to win, and Trubisky fell just short. Patriots cornerbacks Johnathan Jones and J.C Jackson each caught Trubisky interceptions, and Jackson’s helped keep the Patriots ahead by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
A Tom Brady interception with six minutes left in the fourth quarter allowed the Bears back into the game, and Trubisky and the Bears turned the turnover into an easy touchdown with four minutes left in the game.
The Patriots moved down the field on their next drive to run down the clock, though they punted with a minute left.
With no timeouts and 24 second left from their own 20 yard line, the Bears drove all the way downfield. Trubisky hit receiver Kevin White over the middle for a fifty yard Hail Mary, where he was brought down by a gang of Patriot defenders. Safety Duron Harmon and both Jason and Devin McCourty all joined together to bring White down. While the defense could not stop Chicago’s offense from moving the chains, they made a play at the end to save the game. Although they allowed 31 points this week after 40 the week before, they made key stops when it mattered.
Since acquiring wide receiver Josh Gordon, the Patriots are a perfect 4-0. The improvement is not coincidental, as Gordon’s abilities make the offense tougher to defend. Gordon is a difference-making receiver New England desperately needed a month ago, all at the cost of a conditional fifth-round and seventh-round draft pick.
Elsewhere in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys traded a first-round pick for receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders. NFL reporters and players laughed and compared it to the Patriots receiving Josh Gordon for almost nothing.
Now 5-2, the Patriots head into Buffalo for a Monday night game against the last-place Bills. Buffalo will be without 2018 first-round pick Josh Allen at quarterback for the second-straight week. Veteran Derek Anderson starts in Allen’s place.
Brian Garland is the Spoirts Editor for The Comment