The New England Patriots demolished the Chicago Bears today, with a final score of 51-23. The game was out of hand by halftime with the Patriots scoring 21 points in 57 seconds, with the run being capped by a Rob Ninkovich fumble recovery for a touchdown. Here are five things we learned from the game:
Tom Brady is at the top of his game. Forget the talk of Tom Brady's demise - The Tom Brady from the last four weeks has been as good as we've ever seen Tom Brady. Brady finished today's game 30 for 35 for 354 yards and five touchdowns. One of his incompletions was a throw away, the other four were drops. Brady did not miss a throw today. He's locked in, and his play and the team's offensive efficiency is now resembling that of 2007-2012. A stunning turnaround.
Brandon Browner is very relevant. Browner showed up early and often today. In the first half, he made a nice play on a sideline throw from Jay Cutler early on, broke up another pass intended for Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. He stalled a drive by stuffing Matt Forte on a screen pass. His physicality was relevant throughout the game, and his conditioning allowed him to play a larger role than a week before. With Revis on the other side, the Patriots shut down the Bears' dynamic duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The two combined for one first half catch. Bennett was also held without a first half reception. Without any dynamic pass rushers, the Patriots will need these two to continue to play at an elite level, especially with the Broncos next on the schedule.
Bryan Stork is still a rookie, but the Patriots offensive is settled. Bryan Stork is a rookie, and it showed today. The 4th round draft choice returned to the line-up at center, but struggled with mental mistakes, getting called for three penalties. The good news is, he looked very good in run blocking and pass protection, so the physical talent is definitely there. The entire Patriots' offensive line was spectacular today. The starters did not allow a sack, and Brady was rarely rushed to throw. The line also created excellent holes for Patriots runners, especially in the first half. But seriously, is Ryan Wendell an MVP candidate? Okay, maybe not a serious MVP candidate, but the line has played dramatically better since he returned to action.
Jonas Gray emerges at running back. Jonas Gray has emerged as the team's primary between the tackle running back. He's no Stevan Ridley, but they don't need him to be Ridley. Gray showed good power and surprising agility throughout the day. He finished the day with 86 yards on 17 carries. The Patriots will need Gray to provide some balance and keep the defense honest, and he did exactly that today.
Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright both step up. Rob Gronkowski is just unstoppable. Julian Edelman struggled for the second straight week with just one catch and two drops. However, quarterback Tom Brady has find help from a couple of new friends. Brandon LaFell looks like the answer as the #2 wide receiver in the offense. He had a career day, bringing in eleven receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. He is able to create separation on the short to intermediate routes, but has the physicality and size to shield defenders in tight space. Most importantly, he has developed an excellent rhythm with Brady. Tim Wright also stepped up today. He caught a touchdown on a play in which he simply outrun a Bears safety across the end zone on a pass from the one. In the second half, he easily won match-ups with linebackers on route to a seven catch, 61 yard effort.
And Rob Gronkowski. Oh, Rob Gronkowski. Nine receptions, 149 yards. Unstoppable on the seam. Unstoppable in the red zone. Unstoppable, unstoppable, unstoppable. Seriously, just ask Ryan Mundy.