New England Patriots: Long Week Of Preparation For Chicago Visit
The New England Patriots needed every second of their 60 minute allotment to survive the Thursday Night contest in Foxboro for the win over the Jets. It seems to be the story for the second straight year; New England is winning them ugly.
The good thing about a Thursday night game is the long week of rest, recuperation, and preparation. Still reeling from the losses of Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley in the Buffalo game the previous week, the Patriots limped home for a stretch of three home games leading up to their bye-week and a big break from the grind.
The bad news is that the third game in this stretch happens to be the Denver Broncos who are riding high (with all those records in tow) and will be a formidable foe for this beleagured Patriot team. But not wanting to get too far ahead...
Here's how the Patriots stack-up against this week's opponent- the Chicago Bears.
1. The Patriots have won the last three contests with ease.
Most recently was a complete shelacking in the snow in 2010, where Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and Jay Cutler threw two interceptions. This is not the same team, but if Brady and this offense have really hit their stride, they will keep the Chicago defense on its heels and the offense watching from the bench.
2. Don't be fooled by the close game gainst the Jets.
We all know that division rivals play each other tougher than usual. The Jets were hungry for a win, while the Patriots had come off of two huge wins over Cincinatti and Buffalo. Let's not expect every game to be a blow-out win like in 2007. But the new line-up has started to gel and Brady has targets who won't let him down. Brady did manage to throw three TD passes last week.
3. The Patriots' defensive front line is not as porous as some would have us believe.
The Jets' success on the ground to the tune of 218 yards was the worst of the season, but by no means typical. It was all the way back to week four and a loss to the Chiefs that the Patriot D gave up more than 100 yards to an entire backfield! If there is anything to be said, it is that the D line can be Jekyll and Hyde at times. The Patriots were clearly not ready for the Chiefs or their fans. But they have not looked back since that debacle. Is there room for imrovement? Certainly. But they can and will come together.
4. The secondary will rise to the occasion.
With the addition of Brandon Browner, the Patriots now have a physical and highly talented defensive backfield that will rival most passing attacks. The Bears have a very talented corps of receivers, not the least of which is Matt Forte out of the backfield. Like I said, this will be a big test for this defense. At least the secondary has the tools to keep the damage to a minimum.
5. The running game.
Filling the shoes of Stevan Ridley is impossible at this stage of the season. There are no lead runners available for the asking. But what the Patriots and Bill Belichick do best is to plug holes and make it work within the system. Jonas Gray, activated last week as a stop-gap in Ridley's absence, was good enough to warrant a flyer in the offseason. He made the practice squad, and now he has the chance to prove he can carve-out a role in the backfield-by-committee that is The Patriot Way. Shane Vereen has already proven his worth, while Brandon Bolden continues to fight for his life in the rotation. Where's LeGarrette Blount when you need him...
In the end, the Patriots are what Belichick has made them. They may not have the plethora of big-name talent that wows us on paper. What they do have is heart and determination. Chicago will be no roll-over.
New England will have to control the line of scrimmage, primarily in the passing game where Brady just needs enough time to find his targets. If the defense does what they are capable of doing, the offense will provide the lead, allowing them to play the game on their own terms.