Tag Archives: Matt Nagy

Who Are the Key Players To Watch Patriots-Bears Week 7?

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Another Big Game, Another Explosive Offense  

The New England Patriots are off to the Windy City this week as they take on the Chicago Bears for what is a rare 1:00 p.m. start for the visiting team. The last two games have been prime time affairs and next week, it is back to another late game as the Pats will be on Monday Night Football against the Bills.

This week, the Bears return home disappointed after they let the chance to return 4-1 and atop the division with some breathing room slip away. They melted late in the game in the South Florida heat, something the Patriots are well familiar with dropped the game in overtime. At 3-2, they have a half-game lead on the Vikings and Packers.

The Patriots at 4-2, have won three in a row and are tied with Miami for the top spot in the AFC East. They’re entering a tough stretch with KC, Chicago, the MNF on the road and the Packers, before taking on Tennessee before their bye.

The Bears offensively run a similar offense to what the Chiefs do and have some explosive offensive players in Tarik Cohen, Taylor Gabriel, and Allen Robinson to go along with the mobile quarterback Mitch Trubiski. The Bears and Trubiski exploded a few weeks for six touchdown passes in the blowout win over Tampa Bay.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

LaAdrian Waddle:

The Patriots swing tackle will no doubt get the start this week at right tackle as Marcus Cannon hasn’t practiced this week after leaving the KC game with a concussion. This is the reason the Patriots resigned Waddle this spring when he was a free agent. They knew that at some point they’d need him.

He may or may not be facing the Bears’ Khalil Mack, who also hasn’t practiced this week with an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. Waddle faced Mack a year ago when Mack was a member of the Raiders defense. The Patriots beat Oakland in Mexico City 33-8 and Waddle was in for Cannon that day. Mack against Waddle that day had a sack, a tackle for a loss and three QB hits.

But regardless of whether Mack plays or not, Waddle will have a very important role in the Patriots game plan this week. Not only will he be responsible with protecting Brady’s right side from whoever rushes off the edge (Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks), but he’ll have to be solid in the running game as well.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots wide receiver is still working on his chemistry with Tom Brady. The deep out routes, the comebacks, and the back shoulder throws are all things that they’ve not worked the kinks out of yet. Those things will come in time, but this week, Gordon could see his role expanded a bit more.

The Bears have a pretty stout front seven and the running game may need the passing game to get it going instead of the opposite. Gordon has the size and athleticism to stretch the field vertically a bit more this week. They tried it a few times against KC. On one play, Gordon was open and ready to catch a deep ball before being interfered with, drawing a 37-yard penalty.

We’d look for the offense to begin expanding Gordon’s range more and more as he gets a bigger comfort level in the offense. Gordon will probably draw Prince Amukamara on the outside, the big, veteran corner should be an intriguing matchup to watch this week.

Dont’a Hightower:

The Patriots big linebacker had a pretty productive game against the Chiefs despite the team allowing 31 second-half points. Hightower had an interception, a tipped pass and had quarterback pressure on Patrick Mahomes which forced him to throw an interception in the end zone, wiping out a Chiefs scoring threat.

This week the Patriots will have to contend with the diminutive but lightning-fast Tarik Cohen out of the Bears backfield. He’s a threat to run the ball or catch it out of the backfield and can be the Bears “X-Factor” in their offense this week.

How well (or badly) the Patriots defense does this week, will have a lot to do with how well they defend Cohen. While a bit different, the Bears offense does run a similar look to the Chiefs and they utilize the RPO (run/pass option) concepts which try to freeze and take advantage of the opposing linebackers. And for New England, that begins with the big man in the middle.

Julian Edelman:

With a Bears defense that gets a lot of sacks (18) and is much better at stopping the run that the past few opponents that the Patriots have faced, they’ll look to what has always worked for them. The short passing game with Julian Edelman will be key this week, helping Tom Brady get the ball out fast and keeping the chains moving.

Edelman’s short area quickness and ability to find the open seams of the defense are a hallmark at the chemistry that he’s enjoyed with Tom Brady for many years.

The Bears defense will have their hands full with trying to jam, throw off the timing and re-route Edelman off the line. That will no doubt fall to the veteran corner Bryce Callahan. The Bears are really happy with the play of  Callahan and resigned the smaller (5’9, 188), but very feisty cornerback this spring.

With the Patriots looking to use the middle of the field, players like Callahan and Danny Trevathan will be tasked with taking that away. The matchup between Edelman and Callahan will be an intriguing one to watch this week.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots defense has not been good at getting home against opposing quarterbacks and creating consistent pressure this year. Now they’re facing another mobile quarterback that can move and more importantly, throw on the move in Trubiski. That means the defense will have to set the edge and keep him in the pocket.

Flowers has been the best Patriots defensive lineman and although he has only two sacks on the season, he’s played very well. He got a lot of praise from the Bears’ coach Matt Nagy this week, “He’s not the ‘big-name guy,’ but he’s the big-name guy among the coaching world,” Nagy said. “He can hold the point. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s fast, he plays in front of the quarterback. So, we know that he’s a good football player. … We have a lot of respect for his game.”

The Patriots are going to need a big game out of Flowers this week, setting the edge, and getting after Trubiski if they want their defense to have a better showing than they had with Kansas City. And they’ll need their best defensive player to lead the way.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Bears Week 7, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 18, 2018 at 7:29 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road for the next two weeks. They face the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 1 p.m. before heading off to Buffalo and facing the Bills in a prime-time Monday Night Football matchup.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (4-2) defeated the Chiefs on a last-second field goal 43-40.  Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and Sony Michel ran for 106 as the Patriots rolled up 500 yards of offense. But the defense, which had a 24-9 first-half lead, allowed 31 points after intermission.

The Bears (3-2)  lost to the Miami Dolphins 31-28 in overtime. Cody Parkey had a chance to win in it OT but his kick was wide right. The Bears defense allowed Brock Osweiler to pass for 380 yards and three TDs. Mitch Tribuski threw for 316 yards and three TDs in the loss.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Bears will meet for just the 14th time in their history with the Pats holding a 9-4 advantage in those contests. The only meeting in the postseason, however, was a crushing 46-10 blowout in Super Bowl XX. The Pats are 5-3 vs the Bears on the road. The last time the team’s faced in Chicago was back in 2010 in a snowstorm. The Patriots rolled 36-7. The Patriots have won the last four meetings including the last meeting between the two teams 51-23 at Foxboro back in 2014.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Bears Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has really found its rhythm the past three weeks. They’ve rushed for an average of 148.3 yards in the games against the Dolphins, Colts and the Chiefs. The offensive line is doing a tremendous job of opening holes for Sony Michel and James White. In this three-game streak, Michel has gained 315 yards in those wins and seems to be getting better every week. James Develin has been outstanding as a lead blocker.

The Bears have been good against the run allowing an average of just 84.3 yards per game. It starts up front with a very good front seven. Former Patriot Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman anchor the front three in the Bears 3-4 scheme. They boast very good linebackers in Danny Trevathan, rookie Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd and of course, Khalil Mack.

Look for the Patriots to attack the Bears front by running right at it between the tackles and guards with Michel and White. Miami did this last week and was very successful running the ball gaining 161 yards on the ground with 101 of them going to Frank Gore. The NFL is a copycat league and after watching the Dolphins carve them up a bit in the heat, look for the Patriots to attempt the same.  

Patriots WRs vs Bears Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has really taken off with the return of Julian Edelman and with Josh Gordon just now beginning to assimilate into the Patriots offense. Tom Brady started slowly this year, with all of the injuries at WR, but is getting better every week. Against Kansas City, he completed 24-35 for 340 yards with a TD. He, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have a built-in chemistry thru years of playing together and they’re beginning to ramp up the production.

The Bears have a ball-hawking defense and have 10 interceptions in just five games. They also have 18 sacks led by Mack with five. He’s banged up right now and may not be 100 percent on Sunday. But in reality, most of the big edge rushers don’t have big games against Brady and the Patriots. It is the interior guys like Hicks that disrupt things. He’s the one to watch. If Brady can’t step up or slide in the pocket, then edge guys like Mack can be productive.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of the field with Edelman and Gronkowski this week. With Gordon and Hogan outside the numbers, they’ll take a fair share of deep shots and when they do that, they’ll try to use James White underneath in the open spaces underneath. I look for Brady to continue his hot streak in the Windy City this weekend

Next up the Chicago offense:

Bears RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Chicago

The Bears have their own two-pronged rushing attack with big back Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen as their speedier back out of the backfield and can inject some quickness off the line. Howard is averaging just 3.5 yards a carry this season as the Bears offensive line has been inconsistent at opening up holes for him. Cohen, however at just 5’6, 181 has been electric both in the running game and catching the ball out of the backfield.

The Patriots were getting gashed early in the season in the running game, but then back-to-back games, albeit against weak running teams in Miami and the Colts had the needle pointing up. Last week, the Chiefs Kareem Hunt had 80 yards in just 10 carries so they are back to square one.

I would expect the Bears to use Cohen a lot in this one. He’s the kind of player with the speed that gives them a lot of headaches. Look for coach Matt Nagy to look for creative ways to get him the ball a lot in this one.

Bears WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Chicago

The Bears for the first time in a while have a large assortment of weapons and thus far, QB Mitch Trubiski has been having a very good season at getting them all the ball. The second-year QB is coming into his own and spreads the ball around nicely. Newcomer  Taylor Gabriel is the player to watch, he has the speed to be a game breaker. Allen Robinson looks healthy after tearing an ACL last year and tight end Trey Burton leads the team with 3 TD receptions and a 13.3 yard per catch average. Cohen is a big (if diminutive) factor out of the backfield.

The Patriots corners have played very well this year, it is the play of the safeties that have been up and down. But the real issue is the lack of consistent pressure on the QB. The Patriots have just seven sacks, that isn’t going to get it done, they have to start creating ways to get more pressure on the QB.

I’m looking for Trubiski to get Burton and Cohen involved in this one early. Running the RPO (run/pass option) similar but not exactly the same as KC, they’ll try to freeze up the Patriots linebackers, get Trubiski outside the pocket and hit his WRs downfield.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have a slight advantage here in the kicking game with Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen over Cody Parkey and Pat O’Donnell. Parkey had a chance to win the game in Miami in overtime and sailed it wide right. Gostkowski has been very solid for over a decade. The Bears have the fast Cohen in the return game but the Patriots counter with Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman on their own. Look for the Patriots to tighten up their coverage units this week. They’ve been uncharacteristically leaky.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is a big game for both teams. Both are sitting atop of their respective divisions but have other teams tied with them and must keep pace. The Bears have a dynamic offense for a change and things are definitely trending in the right direction for them. The Patriots are turning it on as well after a slow start. They’ve won three in a row and are averaging nearly 40 points a game in those.

Look for Tom Brady to throw first and then run against the Bears defense this week. Breaking what they have been doing in establishing the running game first. I’m looking for him to try to get Edelman and Gronkowski involved early. With all of the focus on Mack and his health, Hicks and Trevathan are the X-Factors for the Bears defense this week. The Bears watched the tape of the KC game and running a similar offense, they’ll try to do much of the same things utilizing their team speed.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast and get the Bears in a catch-up/keep up mode. The turnover battle will be huge here. This one will be close for three quarters but a late Brady TD pass puts NE over the top. Patriots 34-21

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.