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Patriots vs. Bears: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 51-23 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Darren McCollester

These are the games I love.

The Patriots kicked off at approximately 1PM EST. The game was pretty much over by 1:30PM EST. I spent the whole game kicked back on the couch, relaxed, unafraid, and enjoying every second of it. It was one of those wins in which everything went right, each unit started to click, and you could tell that everyone on the team was having a blast out there. The offensive line was almost flawless, Tommy B incorporated everybody into his playcalling, and the defense rendered Chicago's large receiving corps more or less useless. Even the special teams managed to take the field without drawing an illegal block in the back or holding call. The Pats needed a game like this, and I'm glad that they got it.

And I'm not going to lie: I needed this game, too. I may or may not have spent all of Saturday night staying hydrated with a group of friends and I may or may not have overdone it just a bit. That may or may not have led to my only getting three or four hours of sleep, and as a result I may or may not have had trouble staring at a computer screen, coming up with these notes, and typing in a matter that didn't sound like Vince Wilfork tap dancing on a floor made out of sheet metal. I don't know if I was up for another nail-biter.

  • Usually I'm on hyper alert for jinxing stats. However, when I found out that yesterday was Tommy B's 100th career start at home, I just knew that this one was in the bag. Brady has more NFL seasons to his name than he has losses at home, and there was no way that Jay Cutler was going to be the guy to take that away from him.
  • Let's start off with the bad and get it out of the way, because there really wasn't much of it:
  • Really, really don't like this consistent yards after contact that backs and receivers get.  All-too-often what should be a 2nd and 8 becomes a 2nd and 4 because ballcarriers continuously fall forward for positive yards. That's new to the Patriots this year, and I honestly don't know if it's something that's correctable.
  • New England calling a timeout with nine seconds left in the first quarter. It ultimately didn't make much of a difference, as the Patriots were able to score three touchdowns in under a minute to close out the half, but there's no reason to take the TO there. If you don't like what you see, just let the clock expire and get back to work at the other end of the field.
  • Still waiting to be given the magic password that will allow me access to whatever it is the coaches see that makes them so high on James White. Great example: towards the beginning of the 4th quarter, White got the call on a draw play with running room and a visible hole. He was slow to pick up speed, made an indecisive cut, and got dropped for a 3 yard gain. That could have been a first down.
  • Until about 7 minutes to go in this one, I thought I knew what Prevent Defense looked like. I stand corrected. What the Patriots marched out against the Bears for Cutler's last TD was the preventiest defense I've ever seen. And I still hate it.
  • Julian Edelman continuing to drop balls - he had two gimmes hit the ground yesterday. Word is that he was battling the flu and was extremely ill, so there may be grounds to give him a pass. But if you're too sick to play, you shouldn't play.
  • That said: when I have the flu, I almost always spend a decent amount of time weighing the merits of walking to the bathroom vs. just letting it fly while I'm still in bed, as the twenty or so steps it takes to get to the toilet just seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Edelman was out there running routes and returning punts to set up late-half TDs.
  • As much as I love Rob Gronkowski - and oh what a day Gronk had - I now cringe audibly every time he gets tackled. I can't shake the notion that it's just a matter of time before...well, nevermind.
  • This seems to be the season of back-to-back awful plays on New England offensive linemen. Brian Stork now joins Solder and Vollmer in the club; just two to go.
  • That's really all I got for party poopery. Time for the positives:
  • Dominique Easley did an admirable job in Chandler Jones's role. He doesn't have the range and length that Jones had, but Matt Forte was never able to bounce it out to Easley's side and he was right around Cutler in the backfield on a regular basis.
  • I'll need to go back and watch this game again, but I saw a lot of great pulling blocks by Vollmer that sprung Jonas Gray for nice gains early.
  • Speaking of Gray: he had himself a nice day. Ran with purpose, lowered his shoulder, and got extra yards after contact. Credit has to go to the offensive line, whose day made it possible for Tommy B to hang his jersey right back up in his locker with just a quick little spray of Febreeze to keep it smelling Brady fresh, but Gray seems to be the between-the-tackles guy for the time being and I'm A-OK with that. He alsohad a great block to spring Edelman on that punt return. Right alongside the gunner, hands up immediately, and gave Edelman the yards he needed to get the outside lane.
  • I could really get used to opening drive TDs in which the Patriots get into the end zone without even generating a 3rd down.
  • Brandon Browner is really coming into his own. That he can match up on TEs is awesome.I was worried, when New England first signed him, that the new "no defending receivers allowed" policy in the NFL would render him more or less ineffective, but as he gets his game legs under him he's proving to be a real asset. Just in time, too; got some more big bodies about to come to town.
  • While they mixed in the hurry-up here and there, New England played a much slower game than usual yesterday, and I think that was specifically to take advantage of Chicago's green secondary and force them to show the hand they were playing. The results were hard to ignore; Tommy B carved them up all day and it wasn't even close.
  • John Lynch on Tom Brady: "If there was a Hall of Fame for quarterback sneaks, Tom Brady would be first ballot." Funny, John - there is a certain sect of us who feel the same way about the regular Hall of Fame.
  • James Develin may be the best fullback in the league. That he's more or less the only fullback in the league is irrelevant.
  • Is it me, or does Sebastian Vollmer a significantly larger version of Charlie Day?
  • I love Charles Tillman. Absolute warrior and class act. One of those guys you want to play hard for. Speedy recovery, Peanut.
  • More than once yesterday I heard Tommy B call "Falcon boss" before the snap. I honestly don't think that's an audible at all; I just think that's how he refers to himself.
  • In years past (see: 2009-2013), the Patriots would force opponents into a 3rd and 19, only to see them either run a screen pass for 20 yards or pick up 35 on a deep sideline route. The script seems to have flipped a bit, as this year seems to be the season of our offense converting 3rd and 19 down near the goal line.l It's nice to be on the other side for a change.
  • Is Tim Wright becoming the new Mike Vrabel? Put him in at TE on the goal line and he'll catch a touchdown?
  • So, if a receiver runs directly into a defensive back who is trying to read his hips, that counts as illegal contact? Should the defender just try and run out of the way instead there?
  • Not going to fault Jamie Collins on the Forte TD; Forte is a hard guy to cover, even for players that actually know how to cover.
  • Remember a few weeks ago when I expressed my rage over the way New England would basically give up on a drive if they had an early down play blow up? I guess somebody read that note. Just glad I could contribute to the victory in some small way.
  • OK, let's talk about Gronk for a while. I'll gladly overlook the fact that I was playing against him in fantasy yesterday, as that was such a blast to walk that it doesn't even matter.
  • New England's first touchdown of the day was as textbook a Brady-to-Gronk connection as it gets. First and goal from the 6, Gronk lined up close to line on the left side, Brady drops back as Gronk cuts towards the corner of the end zone, perfectly placed pass for six. Massive spike ensues.
  • As for Gronk's 2nd TD of the day... I'm actually surprised that wasn't called back. Mike Pereira made the point about the refs maintaining some level of consistency across the league, which is laughable, but I guess that play speaks to the importance of whatever the call on the field is. It may have been one of those situations where there wasn't enough conclusive evidence that the ball moved - although it looked like it did to me.
  • That said, Tommy B started staring Gronk down before he even snapped the ball. Telegraphed it all the way, didn't even try to disguise it, and it still worked. Chicago just didn't have a player on their active roster that could even come close to covering him.
  • Which brings me to Gronk's 3rd TD of the day, which had to be the most emasculating of what was already a most emasculating experience for Chicago. Brady threw it perfectly beyond the fingertips of a fully extended defender (I think it was Brock Vereen - sorry, Shane), Gronk ran into, picked up, examined, and tossed aside Ryan Mundy, ran towards the end zone, dragged Al Louis-Jean across the goal line with him clinging to his ankles like Peter Panning training for his showdown with Hook, and then spiked the ball into the nosebleed section.
  • Martellus Bennet, when asked about Gronk before the game, referred to him as the Terminator of tight ends. I like the comparison, but after what he did to Mundy, I think it makes more sense to call him the Predator. I mean, put these two here in pads, and it's almost the exact same situation.
  • So...does Brandon LaFell know that you get four tries to get a first? You don't have to get a first down every single time you catch the ball, you know. Screw it, nobody tell him.
  • I want to go out drinking with Super Creepy Rob Lowe and I make absolutely no apologies about it.
  • Here are the kinds of things I think about when the game isn't close and my feeble mind is actually allowed to wander instead of stress out over the outcome: Marc Trestman looks like Douglas Kenney. Douglas Kenney is best known co-founding National Lampoon magazine, as well as playing Stork in Animal House. Stork is the last name of New England's center. To anyone who asks me why the hell I was on such an odd train of thought, I'm just going to let Stork respond on my behalf.
  • Look at Akeem Ayers registering a sack! I know plenty of players that had an entire career in New England and didn't get one.
  • Like the use of Amendola to spell Edelman on punt returns to keep him fresh. Not entirely sure of the split duty was illness-related, but I approve.
  • Obviously, though, Edelman is the superior returner, as evidenced by that huge gain to set up the 63rd of New England's 65 first half TDs. But anybody who says that they saw that flag on that big Edelman return and didn't assume it was against New England is lying.
  • Did that Ninkovich TD really happen? Was that actually a thing? Was New England trying to break their own record of three TDs in under a minute? Too bad Cutler's fumble was more of the "here, here take it! Just leave me alone!" variety as opposed to the "hey, look, a butt!" variety, but I'll take it.
  • I will say that I actually thought that Jay Cutler had a pretty legit case that he was in the grasp on that play. Hightower latched onto his leg like a dachshund on the mailman, Cutler looked more or less ready to give up, and then he just flopped it away like an idiot. But that's still no excuse. You play until the whistle blows.
  • If yesterday's game was an after-school pickup match, Chicago would have taken their balls and gone home at halftime. Unfortunately for them, New England grabbed their balls from the opening whistle and held them way up over their heads while the Bears jumped and swatted for them helplessly, all the while whining "hey, come on! Give it! Stop! I'm gonna tell!"
  • Patriots came out throwing to start the 3rd and I love it. I think they treated the 2nd half as an extra practice session for Denver, as they are likely going to have to score on every drive against them.
  • That said, I'll fully acknowledge my hypocrisy here. If Peyton Manning had come out throwing in the 2nd half with a 38-7 lead, I'd go on a very long rant about padding his stats and throwing and making it all about him. I'm not too far gone to know the cardinal rule of sports fandom: if your guy does it, it's great. If another guy does it, it's annoying and not the way it's supposed to be done.
  • Courtesy of the new "At the Line" Camera that Fox Sports just instituted, I think I finally figured out why Tommy B is so adept at tearing apart defenses: imagine being at the line, ready to unleash hell on the QB, and looking across and seeing that face staring back at you. By the time you recover from getting lost in those eyes, the play is over and Gronk is choke slamming all of your teammates.
  • And how about that super slo-mo, super close-up shot of Vince Wilfork kissing Robert Kraft? "Please don't take a bite out of my face" has to be going through Kraft's mind every time, right?
  • Even though it didn't work and the Patriots (finally) had to punt, I like that they went for a Tim Wright end around that saw Wright get into the rushing game. That's the kind of stuff they used to run with Inmate No. 174954.
  • I don't think Brandon Marshall is going to be to happy today.
  • I'm cool with the makeup call that negated a very blatant offensive pass interference on Martellus Bennett (especially since I started him in fantasy this week), but note to the refs: if you're going to throw a makeup flag, maybe choose something a little less flagrant.
  • Does John Lynch hate Darrelle Revis or something? Are you just not going to give him credit for anything he does?
  • Lamarr Houston, you just got yourself a first-hand lesson in karmic justice. What an idiot. Hey Stork, what do you have to say about it?
  • Yes, I know I already used that link. But I've been waiting for an excuse to bust that out since the 2014 Draft, so you're damn right I'm going to milk it.
  • New England has outscored Chicago in its last two outings last two outings 87-30. Not bad.
  • Tommy B finished the day 30 of 35 for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns. Four of those five incompletions were drops. He didn't throw one off target all day. Poor Tommy B. It has to be so hard to be old, washed up, well past your prime, and nowhere near the quarterback you used to be. To validate media criticism with each and every outing as you limp shamefully into obscurity can't be an easy pill to swallow. Let the Jimmy Garoppolo era begin.

Absolutely brutal stretch of games coming up, so it was great to get this momentum builder to give each unit a lot of much-needed confidence and illustrate to everyone in that locker room that this team can play like one of the best teams in the NFL. They are going to need a repeat performance of yesterday's game and then some when the Broncos come to town on Sunday, so it's great to get this win.

And if this article represents the last form of football-related media you pay attention to until Sunday at 4:25, I can't say I even remotely blame you. It's You-Know-Who vs. You-Know-Who for the 16th time, and we all know what that means. I'm just glad that this game is far enough away from Thanksgiving this year so my poor throat has enough time to recover before I shovel more crap down it a second time.