The New England Patriots fooled the world as quarterback Tom Brady was pulled from the game due to an injury. Back-up Jimmy Garoppolo was handed the keys for the first half and...well, it wasn’t perfect at the beginning.
The Bears won the coin toss and received the football to start the game. After a short run, Jay Cutler found Alshon Jeffery over Justin Coleman for a total of 41 yards on two completions and the Bears were already in field goal range. Luckily, Chicago penalties stalled the drive and the Bears left with 3 points after a 10-play, 59 yard drive.
The Patriots went three-and-out after a poorly placed Garoppolo pass was dropped by Aaron Dobson, and the tired defense had to face off against the Bears offense.
The Bears went 64 yards on 11 plays, aided by two key third down penalties by the Patriots that granted automatic first downs. A missed holding call led to a 34-yard pick-up by running back Jeremy Langford, and the Bears were knocking on the door. The Bears scored on their next play and converted the two-point attempt for an 11-0 lead.
And so the Bears ran 20 plays versus the Patriots 3, which is not what the Patriots coaching staff wanted.
The subsequent Patriots drive was a lot better as Garoppolo marched down to the 7 yard line. LeGarrette Blount showed some strong running to stake his claim for a roster spot, but Brandon Bolden fumbled the ball on the 3-yard line and the Patriots left with zero points.
Luckily the defense forced a three-and-out, thanks to a tremendous pass rush by Trey Flowers, and the Patriots started the next drive at midfield.
Trey Flowers' leverage is unbelievable. He has incredibly long arms for his size. pic.twitter.com/hLJaTm0tVs— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) August 19, 2016
Running back Tyler Gaffney showed some strength on the field and brought the Patriots down to the goal line, but was unable to punch it over the line. Gaffney had two attempts on the goal line and wasn’t able to score, which is a definite reason to highlight Blount’s production. The Patriots had to kick a field goal to put points on the board and trailed 11-3.
The Bears started their next drive, but Cyrus Jones picked off a weak Brian Hoyer pass and returned it to the 15-yard line.
A brilliant 14-yard catch and run from James White set the Patriots up on the goal line, again, and Blount knocked it home on his first attempt. The Patriots failed to convert the two-point attempt and trailed 11-9.
Another 3-and-out by the Bears, thanks to surprisingly good play by Patriots defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, and a nice 16-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones set up the Patriots offense on the Patriots 43-yard line with 1:42 left in the half.
Garoppolo had ice in his veins. He went 5 for 7 on the drive, including one throwaway to save time, with completions to A.J. Derby and Chris Hogan and scored with 17 seconds left on the clock. He was calm and collected in the pocket and delivered a strike for a two-point conversion to take a 17-11 lead.
Garoppolo finished the first half with 12 of 16 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Blount is running as hard as he ever has, and it’s likely because he knows Gaffney is breathing down his neck. If Blount can run like this all season, he’s going to be a valuable contributor. He just has to harness this desire.
I also want to highlight the play of rookie left guard Joe Thuney, who looks like the best lineman on the roster for the second straight week.
Thuney getting to the second level ex. 1 pic.twitter.com/OYxzKvXYZY— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) August 19, 2016
Thuney getting to the second level ex. 2 pic.twitter.com/IT7FKwMc9n— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) August 19, 2016
Thuney has continued his strong play in pass protection, but it was his run blocking that caught my attention. Blount ran behind Thuney and lowered the shoulder in the second level multiple times. Thuney is already such a polished player; it’s fun to watch.
The second half is up!