For a second, I thought that I forgot to turn off my Xbox.
Today’s win over the Chicago Bears was just one of those games; the New England Patriots had everything going their way.
People speculated that the Pats would be a little flat after such an emotional victory on Monday night over the New York Jets. Some people, myself included, thought that the weather might slow them down, or at least make this game a close one.
None of that happened.
The Patriots came out of the gate a little slowly, starting with a three-and-out. But they immediately picked up the pace and, after a defensive stop, got themselves out to a quick 14-0 lead.
In a game where red stripes were painted on the end zone and sidelines to help the officials see through the wind and snow, Tom Brady had no trouble seeing or connecting with his receivers.
The backbreaker came surprisingly early when Gary Guyton scored his second touchdown of the season to make it 21-0 in the second quarter. Guyton, who assumed a three-down role for the first time this season thanks to Brandon Spikes' four-game suspension, scooped up a Johnny Knox fumble and took it 35 yards for a score. He also had an interception in the third quarter.
A long touchdown pass from Brady to longtime favorite Deion Branch to end the first half put the game out of reach for good.
Injuries from this game could be a concern for the Patriots, however. Gerard Warren, who had an early sack on quarterback Jay Cutler, and Kyle Arrington were shaken up during the game. Fortunately, both returned. Devin McCourty (rib injury) and Ron Brace (head injury), however, left the game and did not return.
Losing McCourty, a stalwart in the defensive backfield, for an extended period of time would be a big blow to the Patriots’ secondary. Almost immediately after the rookie corner left the game, the Bears were able to move the ball much more consistently. Not having McCourty for a big game against the pass-happy Green Bay Packers next week would be a big concern for the Pats.
Brace’s injury could also be of concern. With Mike Wright and Myron Pryor already suffering from injuries, depth on the defensive line could be an issue for Belichick’s defense as the regular season winds down.
Despite the injuries and some otherwise shaky defense, the Patriots were able to force four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) and hold the Bears to just seven points. The Patriots also had zero turnovers for the fifth game in a row.
Another cause for concern for the Patriots could be their special teams. Shayne Graham missed his second extra point in his tenure with the Patriots, while Devin Hester and Daniel Manning were able to gash New England’s return coverage.
The Patriots were able to answer with a few good returns from Julian Edelman, one of which was taken for a score but was called back due to a Dane Fletcher holding penalty.
A notable roster move paid surprising dividends for the Patriots, as former UFL player Eric Moore was able to sack Cutler and force a fumble inside the Bears' five-yard line.
Moore was signed from the Florida Tuskers the week before the Jets game. His size fits the prototypical model for a Bill Belichick 3-4 outside linebacker, and he was able to power through a block and strip-sack Jay Cutler in the second quarter.
Fred Taylor and Bryan Hoyer came in with about four minutes left for mop-up duty as the game ended. Hoyer replaced Brady after he went 27/40 for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6 against Baltimore and is poised to break Bernie Kosar’s record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception in the next few games.
Taylor replaced BenJarvus Green-Ellis after he ran 21 times for 87 yards. It was Green-Ellis’ first game without a touchdown since the Pats played Pittsburgh
With the win, the Patriots clinched a playoff berth.
After the Jets’ loss to the Miami Dolphins, New England has a two-game lead for the division. They also have a one-game lead over the Steelers for the number one seed and hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers.
Before the game Cris Carter made a prediction: He said that if the Bears' vaunted defense combined with the terrible wintry conditions could not stop Tom Brady, nobody could. He implied that by winning today against the Bears, the Patriots should be the favorite to win their fourth Super Bowl in the past decade.
Well, the Pats seem to be rolling to another Lombardi Trophy. If the Pats play like this they are peaking perfectly for a Super Bowl run.