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Monday, 27 October 2014

Chicago Buried in New England: 3 Things We Learned

Actually, "shootout" would be a misnomer in this game. The Chicago Bears came into Foxboro looking to get back on track against the New England Patriots. But Tom Brady had different ideas. Let's just call it the Tom Brady Show, with supporting cast of the Great Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, and rookie Jonas Gray filling the massive shoes of former starter Stevan Ridley in the backfield.

Brady threw for over 200 yards in the first half, while Jay Cutler couldn't even manage 100 yards. The Bears' best first half performance came from Matt Forte, but even the seasoned veteran didn't show his usual dominance in comparison to the New England rookie Gray in this contest. The Patriots have not had a strong run game this year, yet Gray was able to grind 86 yards off the Chicago defense.

The Patriots jumped-out to the early lead, and continued to extend that lead right through halftime, scoring 38 in 30 minutes and coming out with a strong drive in the third stanza to further extend the lead to 45-7.

So here is what we found out today:

1. Rob Gronkowski is back in Beast Mode.

We already knew that Gronk was a mismatch for any defense, but he has taken a little extra time, coming back from injury, to rediscover that form that terrorized defensive players in previous seasons.

2. Jay Cutler is out of sync with his offense.

I always had my doubts about his play, but this was a really, bad game for the well-paid QB. Cutler struggled to find his receivers, which was partially the result of blanket coverage by the Patriot defense. He managed to complete a couple of drives in the second half with some nice throws, but the highlights were few and far between.

3. How does this Patriot defense hold it together?

In 2013, they lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo to injury... and went to the AFC Championship game. In 2014, they have lost Mayo again, along with Chandler Jones... and find ways to confound offenses with "plug-in" players and superior will-power. It also helps to have two of the best cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, along with a depleted, but unsung group of linebackers who make plays when needed.

A stingy defense always makes the job of the offense so much easier. This was a complete effort for the defense, but let's credit that Brady-led offense with shredding the Chicago defense, and establishing a big lead. Both LaFell and Gronk went over 100 yards and caught four of Brady's five TD passes.

Late scores made the game look closer than it really was; this was a Patriot's blow-out from the opening kick. Cutler had better stats in the second half, but not enough to compensate for a horrible first half. The entire offense moved better, especially in "garbage-time" when the game was way beyond reach.

If anyone thought the Patriots were losing their dominance in this league, they forgot who the head coach/QB combination was in New England. It's as much about teamwork and game planning as talent, and the Patriots proved today that the former wins games.



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