The Real No. 1 Defense
Pats Win Despite Turnovers, Bad Calls
Bears Fail to Sweep Northeast
The New England Patriots (8-3) overcame five turnovers, lots of strange and bad luck and some poor officiating to beat the Chicago Bears, 17-13, in the first game on Gillette Stadium's new FieldTurf.
Tom Brady's two freaky interceptions; Laurence Maroney, Corey Dillon and combination Ben Watson / Reche Caldwell's fumbles; and victimizing pass-defending penalties weren't enough to keep New England from beating the highly hyped Chicago (9-2). Brady otherwise had a stellar day, but it was the defense (again) that beat the Bears.
Patriots safety Asante Samuel returned most of the favors with three interceptions, one on Chicago's last gasp attempt to beseech official favor, just about the only way the Bears moved the ball great lengths Sunday.
But for a couple meretricious defensive penalties, New England's defense was virtually impenetrable in the red zone. Ranked No. 2 in the league coming into the game (now third), the "Homeland Defense" allowed 153 yards on 36 carries, an uncharacteristic 4.3-yard average, 9 rushing first downs and a rushing touchdown.
New England Patriots cornerback seals Sunday's win with his third
interception of the game, as Chicago's Rashied Davis watches
helplessly. No help from the officials on this one.
But they excelled where it counts most: the scoreboard. Chicago and New England ranked first and second in scoring defense with 12.0 and 13.2 points per game, respectively. They're still ranked No. 1 and No. 2, but the gap is closed to 12.5 to 13.1, and but for 10 gift points courtesy of Walt Coleman's crew, New England would be first with 12.2.
The Pats D exposed yet another in a long line of "The Next Tom Brady" as "just another guy who can play well against lousy defenses." Rex Grossman was 15 of 34 with no touchdowns, 3 INTs (all Samuel's) and a dismal rating of 23.7. Grossman also fumbled on Chicago's first trip to the red zone, making him accountable for all four Chicago turnovers.
In addition to his interceptions, Samuel led the team in tackles with 9 solo tackles, and he tacked on three additional passes defended for good measure. Mike Vrabel also had 9 tackles (5 solo) and was one of two players to play at least offense and defense (Troy Brown did, and he also played special teams).
Add Vince Wilfork's 8 tackles (7 solo) and Ty Warren's, James Sanders and Tedy Bruschi's 7 tackles each, and the top six Patriots tacklers had 10 more takedowns (47) than the entire team needed against Green Bay last week.
Momentum see-sawed early in the game before the New England defense bore down.
New England Patriots defensive backs James Sanders (36) and Ellis
Hobbs (27) stop Chicago Bears running back Thomas Jones in the
first half Sunday. The Pats D led the effort in the 17-13 win.
Samuel was destined to have a fantastic day after his interception on Chicago's first possession, but the rest of the defense had to come up big after Brady's first freak interception, which turned a sure touchdown into a turnover. Chicago stole momentum and drove 74 yards to the Pats 22. But a 5-yard false start set the stage for Richard Seymour to block Robbie Gould's field goal attempt, keeping the game scoreless.
The Patriots regained momentum, driving to the Chicago 11 before Lance Briggs (who had a phenomenal game as well: 13 tackles, 7 solo, 2 forced fumbles (1 recovery), 1 pass defensed) stripped Laurence Maroney and snared the loose ball.
Then it was Chicago driving again. But Grossman fumbled on the Patriots 5, and that was just about all for the Bears offense until late in the game.
Chicago tried to wear down New England, pounding the ball up the middle while stealing a few end runs after convincing the Pats the ball would be going up the middle. But the Patriots defense never wavered, and they kept the Bears out of the end zone until they got help at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter.
It wasn't all a bowl of cherries for the Patriots defense. They were dealt another devastating blow when linebacker Junior Seau went down with what appears to be a broken arm or wrist.
Patriots linebacker Junior Seau waves to the crowd as
he's led off the field with an apparent broken right arm.
Brady looked great overall. He hit seven different receivers (as did Grossman). Watson and Kevin Faulk had 6 catches each (for 89 and 37 yards, respectively). Maroney had 4 for 45 and Caldwell had 3 for 57.
In general, the Patriots moved the ball at will, but the turnovers terminated several otherwise solid drives. Besides Brady's two strangely deflected interceptions, Watson and Caldwell combined for a pair of fumbles on one play that first looked like a big gain, and then a fumble (from Watson almost directly to Caldwell) and then another big gain, but then another fumble, this time from Caldwell directly to Chicago's Danieal Manning.
Despite Watson's fumblitis, he also made a couple great plays, including a fantastic 40-yard gain when he snatched Brady's under pressure running floater on a 3rd-down conversion that led to the game-winning touchdown.
It's clear that Watson and the coaches need to figure out some different way for Watson to carry the ball, as defenses are keying on his Tiki Barber-esque style and are simply punching it out of his grip.
Faulk's reception on that drive sent him into first ahead of Tony Collins on the Patriots all-time receptions by a running back. The Brady-to-Watson connection that culminated the drive gave Brady five straight seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes.
Chicago beat all three New York teams (Buffalo, the Giants and the Jets), but were unable to sweep the Northeast.
New England again has a two-game lead in the AFC East, and the Patriots remaining schedule (Detroit, Miami, Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee) favors a strong finish.
The key to the Patriots 17-13 win over Chicago was ...
This poll is closed
Asante Samuel's 3 interceptions, 9 tackles and 3 passes defended.
Tom Brady's 22 of 33 for 269 yards against the No. 2 passing defense.
Rex Grossman's 15 of 34, 3 interceptions and fumble.
New England's overall defense, especially in the red zone.