Wide receiver Brandon LaFell has emerged in the Patriots offense, setting career highs in receptions and yards Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)
The New England Patriots blew out the Chicago Bears 51-23 on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots started the game quickly and never took their foot off the gas. After deferring to Chicago to start the game, New England’s defense was able to get off the field in just six plays.
Then, the fun began… if you’re a Patriots fan.
Touchdown, field goal, touchdown,¬†¬†touchdown,¬†¬†touchdown. New England scored on all five possessions of the first half, putting up 31 points in a hurry.
The Bears highly touted offense barely showed up Sunday. Matt Forte had a quality game, but Chicago’s offensive unit couldn’t get into a rhythm. With the loss of Chandler Jones last week, already without Jerod Mayo, New England’s defense rose to the occasion. Overall, a quality game with contributions from all three phases.
Here are a few thoughts on Sunday’s contest. —
Gronk is Back: While Rob Gronkowski started the season for the Patriots, it looks as if “Gronk” is back in full form. Gronkowski was a force to be reckoned with Sunday, hauling in nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. The Bears defense had no answer for no.87, consistently picking up chunk yards down the seam and throwing defenders to the ground.
It’s incredible what Gronkowski is able to do when healthy. In 58 career games, he’s scored 56 touchdowns. Gronk opens up the offense, creating space for other receivers to make plays. Whether he’s catching a lot of passes or not, Gronkowski makes an impact each week. Right now, he’s as good as he’s ever been.
Brady Continues Hot Streak:¬†Tom Brady was masterful Sunday, with a quarterback rating of 148.3. He went 30-35, 354 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The last four weeks, Brady has been playing at another level.¬†In October, Brady has gone 100-144 for 1,268 yards, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Patriots are 4-0 in that stretch.
Brady’s efficiency Sunday, kept the offense rolling and the unit put up 44 points overall. He’s developing a nice chemistry with several players and the offense has formed an identity.
Fifty-Seven Seconds: While an NFL game is played for 60 minutes, it took just :57 seconds to define Sunday’s victory.
After Brady hit Gronkowski for a two-yard touchdown, the Patriots kicked to the Bears and forced them to punt in three plays. Chicago, pinned deep in their own territory, punted to Julian Edelman who returned the kick for 42 yards. One play later, Brady found LaFell for a touchdown.
Chicago got the ball back and the bottom fell out. Dont’a Hightower and rookie Zach Moore hit Cutler, forcing him to lose the ball.¬†Rob Ninkovich was in perfect position — as he seems to have the knack for being in the right spot at the right time — ¬†to recover the ball and return it for a touchdown.
In less than a minute of gameplay,¬†the Patriots put 21 points on the board and closed the door on any comeback attempt.
LaFell, Wright Settling into Roles: Going into the season, Edelman and Gronkowski were clearly the focal points of the offense. Now eight games in, we’ve seen Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright settle into roles and both are contributing on a weekly basis.
LaFell set career highs Sunday, catching 11 passes for 124 yards. He’s developed a nice rapport with Brady, making plays outside the numbers and winning one-on-one matchups on a consistent basis.
While Wright isn’t in a full-time role like LaFell, he’s still maximizing opportunities. Better yet, he gives New England the ability to use a two-tight end set, pairing him with Gronkowski to create mismatches. He caught seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in the contest.
Brady was perfect when targeting Gronkowski, LaFell and Wright Sunday: 26-26, 317 and four touchdowns.
Revis Island: Darrelle Revis played great Sunday. While Chicago had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery lined up at receiver, Revis was able to neutralize whoever¬†came his way.
Bears QB Jay Cutler targeted Revis five times Sunday, resulting in zero receptions, a pass breakup and an interception in man coverage down the field. Revis allowed two catches in zone coverage, a screen pass and a four-yard catch to Forte.
Revis lined up primarily on the left side, with Brandon Browner starting across from him on the right side of New England’s secondary. Browner played a strong game as well, his physicality and attitude brings an edge to the defense.
¬†– Akeem Ayers debuted for the Patriots after the team acquired him via trade earlier in the week. Ayers saw some action on special teams and received a few¬†snaps on defense. Despite limited action, he registered his first sack of the season and pressured Cutler a couple of times throughout the game. Hopefully, he can build off Sunday’s performance.
¬†– Dominique Easley took over for Chandler Jones at the right defensive end spot. The rookie was able to set the edge consistently and was credited with half a sack in the contest. While expectations were tempered with Easley, being a rookie and coming off an ACL injury last year, his presence will be needed with Jones sidelined indefinitely.
¬†– Bryan Stork had an up-and-down day, which is expected from a rookie player at times. While he was penalized three times Sunday and had a bad snap to Brady under center, Stork also had some nice interior push blocking. Between he and Dan Connolly’s return to the starting lineup, New England’s offensive line had their best performance of the season.
Final Thought: Great win for the Patriots Sunday, lifting the team to a 6-2 record halfway through the season. Now they must quickly prepare for the Denver Broncos, as they visit Gillette Stadium for a week nine showdown.
After the win Sunday, Revis said, “We’ll probably move on to Denver fast because we want this one. We really do. We’re a team on a mission.”
Get ready for a fun week.
Do¬†you have a Twitter account?¬†Be sure to follow me:¬†@PatriotsHaven!