Week 8 Report: Bears
What a great performance turned in by the Patriots this weekend in their absolute blowout of the Bears. They dominated in all facets of the game and held a commanding 38-7 lead at half. I knew the Patriots were going to be able to move the ball at will on the Bears and their shaky D, but not to that extent. Brady was perfect all day and tore up the Bears. I expected a somewhat close game with the Bears having a good offense, but that wasn't nearly the case. The Patriots seem to be peaking at the perfect time as the perceived best team in the league, Denver, comes into town on Sunday for a huge battle.
Offensively, I think we all know what offensive line combination is best for this team now. With Stork and Connolly back, we saw a unit that is coming along nicely. Wendell at right guard, Connolly at left guard and Stork at center has proved to be the best combo for the interior. Stork, for a rookie, has really outplayed my expectations for him already. He had a couple tough slip ups on Sunday, but overall he played another nice game. He's a 4th round pick already starting for a contending team. If the O-line continues to play at this level protecting Brady, it will be tough to beat the Pats. When Brady has time like he did on Sunday, he's near flawless especially with a healthy Gronk. Of course, the biggest key to this offensive line's consistency is health. If they can stay healthy, I think we can expect pretty good protection for Tom most of the time. The run blocking was also very good Sunday, but that should be expected against a below average run D in Chicago. Jonas Gray looked very good in his first real game action for the Pats. It's safe to say he's won the backfield there. He runs very hard and always gets positive yards like Ridley which is very nice. He may be a gem for us. As for the O-line, I think we can expect them to run block well versus average and below average run defenses, but they will struggle against some of the better run Ds. I can live with that though as long as they can keep Brady protected.
The receiving group is really starting to come together as this season progresses. Brandon LaFell is really finding his niche in this system and has really gained the trust of Brady. He brings a bigger presence on the outside, which is really different than what we are used to seeing from WRs. Edelman has really disappeared in this new offense with the bigger targets being the focus. We saw him drops a couple balls on Sunday and only have one catch on the day. While his role has diminished, Edelman can be trusted to take over a game if he is called upon. The Gronk is back boys. He may not be 100% just yet, but he's pretty damn close. He's running much smoother than he was to start the season. His routes are faster and crisper. When he's playing at this level, the man is pretty much impossible to stop. It will take at least two guys to stop him, but that will just open up LaFell on the outside in 1-on-1 situations and Edelman on the inside as well. As long as Gronk can stay healthy, this offense should continue to roll, big time. We also can't forget about Tim Wright whose role seems to be growing week to week. The receiving group, as long as Gronk is there, could be the strongest group on the team. The last month has really displayed how Gronk is easily the best TE in the league and one of the most dynamic players. He makes life for Brady much easier as well, which is a given, shown through Brady's 14 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the month of October.
Defensively, we saw the offseason acquisitions made by BB come to fruition as the secondary completely smothered the Bears' twin towers Marshall and Jeffery. Revis Island was all over Marshall most of the game and even on Alshon, too. Every week, Revis continues to display why he still in the discussion, if not leading it, for best corner in the league. We saw a very good showing from Browner on Sunday, in my opinion. He picked up a couple flags, but with him you know what you are getting, a physical guy. Browner made a couple nice open field tackles and also had some nice plays in coverage. As long as you can put him in the right situation, he can be very good for this defense. The secondary continues to shine for this Pats D as they are #1 in the league in yards allowed.
As for the front seven, we saw a unit that struggled to contain maybe the hottest and best back in the league, Forte. Forte has been killing every defense he has played, but still it's not a total excuse to let up the yards they did. Pass rush wise, the front seven had a great day. We saw Easley look effective out there as he seems to be back from his injury. The new acquisition Akeem Ayers even showed some nice rushes off the edge. Hopefully he can continue to grow in this defensive scheme. I thought Dont'a Hightower did a great job on Sunday in the Mayo role communicating for the defense. The experience he got last year at that spot is really coming in big for him this season. The defense is coming along very well as the best offense in the league is coming to Gillette. They really need to be up to the task on Sunday. Hopefully Alan Branch can suit up and add an extra body up front for depth in the run game. Sunday is a huge day for the secondary as they will be dealing with the Thomas' and Sanders, which is one tall order. Belichick always draws up a great scheme against Peyton Manning, so expect something interesting on Sunday from the defense. This is the real test.
So here we are, a month after people were unbelievably saying the Patriots were done and Brady should be benched, the Pats sit at 6-2 on a 4 game win streak. Brady has looked like the league MVP in October and the defense is playing consistent ball as well. With health, this Pats team will be the contender we all expected. The Broncos game Sunday will be a very good measuring stick for them and this is a HUGE game for playoff seeding. It's not a must win, but a win this weekend would be amazing.
Ups: Brady, Gronk, LaFell, O-Line, Secondary
Downs: Edelman, Vereen