The Patriots played some excellent football to make it to the playoffs. In fact, for the second week in a row, almost everyone played fantastic football, so this should be difficult once again. Wish me luck!
Injuries All Around. In an otherwise great day of football, some crucial Patriots were hampered with injuries. It's unknown what the extent of the injuries are, but they're serious to a team that needs its health when going into the playoffs. Starting CB Devin McCourty had to leave the game early with a rib injury and starting DE Ron Brace had to leave with a head injury. The Patriots have no depth at cornerback since Leigh Bodden is out for the season, Jonathan Wilhite is injured with a bad hip and Chevis Jackson was just added to the roster this past week. That leaves Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler as the only healthy cornerbacks on the roster and Arrington was shaken up during the game. They also have no depth on the defensive line as Gerard Warren left the game, but came back after sitting out, Myron Pryor and Mike Wright have been injured the past couple of weeks and now Brace is possibly injured. That leaves only Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick as the healthy linemen on the Patriots. This team needs to get healthy and stay away from the injury bug.
Special Teams Defense. The Bears averaged 28.0 yards on kick returns during the game as the Patriots were unable to keep their footing and stop the return man. The unit needed to be more aware of the cutbacks and to stay in their lanes. Most players ran out of position to help take down the returner, but one juke leaves the player with a wide open lane. In different weather, it's fine to go after the returner. In the snow? That just can't happen. Poor play led to the only Bears' score.
My Prediction The Patriots Would Have 5 Sacks. I was straight up wrong. The Patriots only had 2 sacks on Jay Cutler the entire game, which blows my prediction out of the water. However, the weather prevented Cutler from throwing down the field, which eliminates the "Cutler holds on to the ball too long" portion since he checked down for most of the game. Also, the Patriots were up by so many points so early in the game, they stopped the interesting defensive schemes and kept with the basics since the basics were working. They rushed three and sometimes four, but they really made Cutler hurt himself with terrible throws in bad weather. That said, the Patriots were able to generate some awesome pressure with only 3 men going after Cutler.
Dane Fletcher's Flag On Julian Edelman's Return. I didn't see it. Edelman made a fantastic return, but Fletcher was called for a penalty which negated the great return. Unfortunately, I didn't see the play that was penalized. The Patriots were so far ahead that the guys in the booth decided that they shouldn't show replays on penalties (and they did it other times as well), but this was a glaring mistake that I wanted to see again. But I didn't see it.
Tom Brady Staying So Late In The Game. C'mon man...The Bears were so far behind and there was no chance they were coming back. The team played a full 60 minutes against the Jets and did it again against the Bears. However, I didn't approve of the Patriots keeping Brady in the game, in such terrible conditions, against a team with a dangerous defense. One bad slip by a lineman in the snow and Brady gets pile driven into the sod and hurts his shoulder. Brian Hoyer should have taken the field to take the final offensive set and should not have had to wait until halfway through the drive.
Read The Good after the jump!
Most Everything Else. Tom Brady. Wes Welker. Deion Branch. BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The entire defense. The entire offense. Shayne Graham, despite his mixed PAT. The coaches. Even Darius Butler is getting back in the coaches' good graces with some solid play. This was a fantastic all-around performance by a great team.
Eric Moore. I'm only going to single out one player in "The Good" and it's Eric Moore, the recent pick-up. Moore plays OLB and was taken out of the UFL by the Patriots. He had one heck of a game with a sack, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss. He had four tackles and looked good enough to warrant splitting time at OLB, especially on running downs.
My Prediction The Patriots Would Eat The Bears Defense. The stats are overrated. Let's see what I pointed out:
Bears have a top yards against defense: The Bears entered the game with the #3 yards against defense, giving up 300.3 yards/game. The Patriots gained 475 yards.
Bears have a top points against defense: The Bears entered the game with the #3 points against defense, giving up 16.0 points/game. The Patriots racked up 36 and could have had more if they hadn't taken their foot off the pedal for the last three drives.
Bears have a top run defense: The Bears entered the game with the #2 rushing yards against defense, giving up 84.9 yards/game. The Patriots ran for 124, which doesn't sound like much, but it's almost 50% more than their normal defense.
Bears have the top 3rd down defense: The Bears entered the game with the #1 3rd down defense in the league, allowing opponents to convert only 31.7% of the time. The Patriots converted 12/19, for a cool 63.2%
Yeah. I'll win some and I'll lose some when it comes to predictions, but I'll always be happy when the Patriots get the win. Another top defense in the books.
The Dolphins Beat The Jets. Hooray! The Jets are now two games behind the Patriots and, since they split their season series, the next tie breaker is division victories. The Patriots now have a one game edge in that category, should they beat the Dolphins in the Razor. Thank you Dolphins for beating the Jets! It takes a load off of everyone's shoulders.
The Panthers And The Raiders Lost. And the Vikings are playing a "home game" in Detroit since their dome collapsed and they're facing the Giants, who need a win in order to make the playoffs. The draft picks are in good (bad?) hands. The Raiders will probably finish the season 7-9, which spots their pick towards the middle of the first round, but the Panthers are pretty much guaranteed the #1 pick of the second round.