The New England Patriots’ 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears literally came down to one yard after the visitors stopped the home team’s Hail Mary attempt a yard short of the goal line. The ending was a fitting one for a back-and-forth contes that produced plenty of memorable moments and standout performances – for better or for worse. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Winner: The offensive line
Chicago entered the game against New England with one of the NFL’s best pass rushes – led by Khalil Mack and ex-Patriot Akiem Hicks, the group averaged 3.6 sacks over its first five games. Against the Patriots, however, it was able to register only one quarterback takedown and three hits as the offensive line had another very good outing even with starting right tackle Marcus Cannon absent due to a concussion.
Winner: WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Yes, Patterson had a costly fumble that set up the Bears’ first touchdown of the day. However, the NFL’s best kickoff returner also bounced back in style and scored a momentum-swinging touchdown in the early second quarter. His 95-yard runback was not his only big play, though, as the 27-year old also had a 38-yard return later in the game – further showing his abilities on special teams and why it would be wise to generally kick away from him.
Loser: DE Adrian Clayborn
The Patriots defense had plenty of issues against the Bears, but the most excruciating to watch was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky running wild over the unit. His 8-yard touchdown, which covered 77 yards, was the low-point for New England – and for defensive edge Adrian Clayborn. While the free agency acquisition registered his first sack as a Patriot later in the game, Trubisky’s score was a good example for his day and the struggles he still has. Clayborn was too aggressive in his pursuit and opened up the backside for the quarterback to exploit. It was not the only time the veteran was out of position yesterday.
Winner: QB Tom Brady
A late-game interception hurt his final stat-line but Tom Brady still played a great contest against one of the NFL’s better defensive units. Overall, he finished the day with 25 completions on 36 attempts for 277 yards with three touchdowns and the aforementioned pick – as well as a solid acting performance on a direct snap to the running back. The 41-year old was patient in the pocket and able to deliver some perfect passes all game long, spreading the football around well in the process. It was a typical Brady day.
Loser: RB Sony Michel
Had his game not ended in the early second quarter with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, Sony Michel would likely have found himself in the “winner” category once again. However, such is life in the NFL: one moment you can be on top, the other you can be on a cart to the locker room. New England now has to hope that its first-round rookie running back dodged a bullet or else the offensive attack – and more important the career of a promising young player – takes a serious hit.
Winner: LB Kyle Van Noy
The biggest play of Kyle Van Noy’s day was obviously his touchdown off a blocked punt by fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The veteran scooped up the loose football and returned it 29-yards to give New England a 31-24 lead midway through the third quarter. In general, Van Noy had a productive day and finished with six tackles – one of which for loss – and a pressure on the final Hail Mary attempt. The latter forced Trubisky to throw a higher arc and not quite reach the end zone with the pass.
Winner: RB James White
When Sony Michel went down, the Patriots were left with two running backs which forced James White to expand his role. Serving not only as New England’s receiving back, he also was used as the ball carrier late in the game to run out the clock. Overall, he finished the day with 11 carries for 40 yards and eight catches for 57 and two scores. Another very good performance by arguably the Patriots’ second most valuable offensive player.
Winner: WR Josh Gordon
One month ago, the Cleveland Browns traded Josh Gordon to the Patriots for a conditional fifth-round draft pick. Yesterday, the 27-year old had his first 100-yard game in New England. By now, it appears that Gordon is well integrated in the Patriots offense and has earned Tom Brady’s trust – a perfect example for that being his 19-yard catch on a fourth down attempt in the second quarter. It was an impressive outing by an outstanding player.
Losers: CB J.C. Jackson & CB Keion Crossen
While J.C. Jackson registered an interception late in the third period and had a big block on Patterson’s return touchdown, the undrafted rookie struggled with penalties when in the defensive lineup: he was flagged three times – twice extending a drive scoring drive. Fellow cornerback Keion Crossen also received a flag though the results were not as grave: the seventh-round rookie was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the first half and could very well helped Bears earn some points if not for questionable play calling. All in all, the two youngsters played some bad situational football at times (as can be expected by rookies).