The New England Patriots return to action after a much needed 10 day mini-bye to take on the Chicago Bears in Foxboro on Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox with Sam Rosen and John Lynch on the call.
The Patriots (5-2) defeated the New York Jets 27-25 last Thursday night as Chris Jones blocked a last second 58 yard field goal to preserve the victory. The game marked a tough stretch of four games in 18 days as the team needed a break both physically and mentally.
The offense scored 27 points while only possessing the ball for 19 minutes and Tom Brady continued on his recent hot streak, tossing three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The running game struggled with the absence of Stevan Ridley gaining on 63 yards on the ground.
The defense struggled against the run, getting gashed to the tune of 218 yards as the Jets held the ball for more than 40 minutes, totally owning the important time of possession subplot. Now with a breather, the defense will look to rebound.
The Bears (3-4) lost to the Miami Dolphins 27-14 on Sunday dropping them to a very improbable 0-3 at home in 2014. The Bears, who have missed the playoffs in six of the past seven years need to get going and soon if they wish to reverse that trend this season. However, the Bears are 3-1 on the road, so theyâ€™ll have that in their favor.
As part of the lead-up to the game on Sunday night, weâ€™ll have a detailed breakdown of the matchups later in the week, but here are Five First Impressions of the Bears:
Meltdown Sunday Shows Frustration: After their third loss at home on Sunday there were reports of players pointing fingers and having to be physically separated. While those things canâ€™t be allowed to happen, it shows the frustration level that exists as this is a team that should be (on paper) much better.
The very talented but mercurial WR Brandon Marshall was particularly bothered to not be getting the ball enough. The last thing the Bears need is for Marshall to revert to the player who worked himself out of Denver and Miami.
Patriots fans have seen some of that same frustration on Brady, however nothing to the level weâ€™re allegedly hearing from Chicago. It will be interesting to see how much they Bears try to get Marshall involved quickly on Sunday.
Bears Receivers Offer Biggest Challenge Yet: While the Patriots pass defense has been at the top of the NFL thru the first seven weeks, four of the top ten passing teams will face them in the next six games. So weâ€™ll have a much better appreciation as to where this pass defense is.
Chicago easily has one of the biggest receiver cores in the NFL, Marshall 6â€™4, Alshon Jeffrey 6â€™3 and TE Martellus Bennett 6â€™6 all give QB Jay Cutler tremendous size to box defenders out and be able to get jump balls in the red zone.
But it is the 6â€™2 RB Matt Forte who is the biggest target in the passing game. Forte has already caught 52 passes out of the backfield and adding in his 448 yards on 111 carries in the running game, the Bears have some very talented offensive weapons.
Pressure Key For Bearsâ€™ Defense: While Miami QB Ryan Tannehill torched the Bears for 277 yards and 123.6 QB rating, it was ability to scramble that was a key component in that game. Tannehill ran for 48 yards in the contest including a huge 30 yard scramble that set the tone.
The Bearsâ€™ DT Jeremiah Ratliff led the way for the pass rush logging in 3.5 sacks of the Bears four sack effort on the day. With the interior push, that will be key to playing the Patriots this week. DE Jared Allen can still bring some pressure from the edge and Willie Young who has seven sacks will push from the outside, but nothing makes the immobile Brady more ordinary than pressure up the middle.
This will be a big matchup this week for both units, with CB Kyle Fuller hurting and questionable to play this week with hand and hip injuries, the Bears will need pressure to slow down the Patriots passing game. Tannehill completed 25 of 32 passes, if Brady has similar numbers, it wonâ€™t bear well for the Bears defense.
Look For Run-Heavy Look This Week: New England has struggled to stop the run this season, in losses to the Dolphins and Chiefs and the near loss to the Jets they were gashed badly. The Bears offense has been somewhat Jekyll/Hyde this season as theyâ€™ve been extremely inconsistent.
One of the biggest reasons has been turnovers; QB Jay Cutler has turned the ball over 10 times this season. A big way to remedy that situation is to turn to the running game with Forte. Forte has the skills to take a game over and set the tone.
Facing a New England defense struggling to stop the run, the running game will keep the Patriots offense off the field and set up play-action to the big receivers that Cutler has to work with. Last week Chicago could only muster 63 yards on the ground, putting a lot of pressure on Cutler who lost an INT and also three fumbles with one lost.
Hot Cutler This Week?: With the Bearsâ€™ offense (read Cutler) being hot one week and cold the next, could this be the week for a hot Jay Cutler to light it up? The pressure will be on the 31 year old QB this week. After allegedly being loudly called out by WR Brandon Marshall at the end of last weekâ€™s game against Miami, Cutler will be on the hot seat somewhat to right the ship and stop the Bears from becoming a dysfunctional unit.
For the record, Bears coach Marc Trestman has denied a rift between their star QB and WR but after Marshall said the Bearsâ€™ offense and effort was unacceptable 17 times in the post-game press conference, the time is now for the team if they are to seriously contend for a playoff berth in the NFC North.
And it begins with Cutler, in the Bears four losses, theyâ€™ve turned the ball over nine times. That wonâ€™t cut it against anyone let alone Brady and the Patriots. So expect a much better effort this week.