For the second week in a row, and the fourth time this season, the high powered New England offense absolutely shredded one of the league's best defenses.
Despite blizzard like conditions and winds up to 40 mph, QB Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns, finishing the game with a QB rating of 113.4 and an amazing streak of 255 passes thrown without throwing an interception.
Put a player of the week caliber performance like that by Brady together with 124 yards and a touchdown from the running game and you've got a dominant offense.
Throw in four forced turnovers by an opportunistic defense (two interceptions and two recovered fumbles) and you've got the recipe for a blowout, 36-7 victory.
This win was not just impressive as it was against a tough Chicago defense, but it also clinched thePatriots a playoff berth in the AFC playoffs and added credibility to their grasp on the unofficial title of "best team in the NFL" as we move into the final few weeks of what has been both an interesting and exciting season for the Patriots and their fans.
While a great many things have changed since Sept 21, 1975 when Belichick made his first appearance in the NFL at Soldier Field as a special teams assistant coach on the Baltimore Colts, the thing that has surely affected him the most has been the transformation of Tom Brady from a late round draft pick to a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback.
The one thing that didn't change was the result of the game however, as Bill saw his team win 35-7 way back then-albeit in much more comfortable weather conditions. That day changed NFL history, not only due to Belichick's first appearance on an NFL sideline, but also due to the debut of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton (who posted a grand total of -4 yards that day).
Today changed NFL history as Tom Brady not only passed Steve DeBerg for 20th on the all time passing yardage list, but also tied legendary gunslinger Dan Fouts with 254 career passing touchdowns—good for 12th all time.
The game started as many who saw the weather for the Chicago area might have expected, with a couple of short drives that ended in punts as both offenses struggled at first to get used to the whipping winds, driving temperatures down to as low 0 degrees.
The difference between the two teams however was simple: The Patriots conquered the weather first.
On their second possession of the game, they made quick work of the Bears, putting together a 12 play, five-minute drive that culminated with Brady's first touchdown pass of the afternoon-a laser shot to the midsection of rookie TE Rob Gronkowski. The defense stopped the Bears on their next drive, forcing a 36 yard punt which left the Patriots opening the second quarter on their own 13.
Bad field position however, didn't prove to be an adequate challenge for the Patriots all day long, as the Bears had troubles even slowing down the offense all day.
In the second quarter, the Patriots went to work, scoring on five consecutive possessions (3 TD's and 2 FG's), including a 59 yard Brady to Branch throw for a touchdown to close out the half and send the home team to the locker room at the half down 34-0.
Not only did the Bears have problems stopping their offense, they struggled in every phase of the game in front of a very cold and disappointed home crowd, losing two fumbles in this quarter and allowing one to score. They even allowed a return touchdown during the quarter-although that touchdown was called back due to a holding penalty away from the ball carrier.
Basically, any which way you can give away a game, the Bears did—or at least, they tried to.
While one can be sure Coach Belichick and Brady's attitudes about taking the foot off the pedal when you're leading haven't changed; what did change was that they were now playing in potentially dangerous weather against a team with no real hope of winning the game and as such, Tom Brady eventually found his way out of the game early, allowing backup Brian Hoyer to take a few snaps for the first time this season.
As I wind down on this article, I find myself shocked that I somehow missed out on mentioning the performance of New England's gifted receiving corps, a group sporting two 100 yard receivers for the first time this season as Branch finished the game with 151 yards and a touchdown followed by Welker's 115 yards.
Despite the weather and the presence of the beast that is Julius Peppers on the defensive line, the Patriots had no trouble moving the ball whether by arm or legs, or scoring the ball, whether by land, air or by d.
The Patriots return home next week to face an injury decimated Green Bay Packers team that took another potentially serious hit today, losing Aaron Rodgers early in the game to his second concussion of the season and allowing the hapless Detroit Lions to beat them in Detroit.
Keep an eye on Rodgers' condition throughout the week, as his health is paramount to the Packers' success.
A few notes for next week's game:
- With two more touchdown passes Tom Brady can take sole possession of 11th place on the all time list as he'll break his current tie with Fouts and pass Redskins legend Sonny Jurgensenwho had 255 in his career.
- Coach Bill Belichick now has 174 wins, tied for 11th place all time with Mike Holmgren. If he can beat Holmgren's old team next week, he'll take sole possession of 11th place on the list.
- Over the past two games, the Patriots have won by a collective 81-10 against two of the best defenses in the league. Green Bay ranks 10th in the league right now, and despite the presence of pro bowl players like Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, they may just simply be Brady and Belichick's next victim.
- In seven games against top-ten ranked defenses this year, Brady and the Patriots have averaged 33.5 points per game while the Packers are only averaging 24.7 points per game all year.