The New England Patriots answered many questions today in their dominating performance against the Chicago Bears today in Chicago. These were the three most important things I pulled from this game:
1.) How does this Patriots team avoid a let down?
The recipe for disaster was looming. This would not have been a problem if the Patriots came out and played a full 60 minutes against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Remember, the Patriots were just coming off an emotional win over the Indianapolis Colts in Foxboro and had to prepare for the Lions on a short week. What the Patriots did on Thanksgiving is scare the shit out of every Patriots fan. The first 30 minutes of the game was some of the worst football I can remember seeing this team play. They did not look like they stepped onto Ford Field ready to play a football game. Thankfully, the Patriots manned up, and their overall talent level came through and propelled the Patriots to a huge second half as they ended up blowing away the Lions.
Flash-forward two weeks. The Patriots are coming off their biggest win of the season after defeating the New York Jets 45-3 on Monday night. Again, the same situation arises. The Patriots were coming off a huge win but had to look forward to a short week, and not only a short week, but also a travel week. If the Patriots were going to throw another stinker like the Cleveland game, this was set up to be the win.
Thankfully, the Patriots proved that they can put last week aside and show up to work on Sunday. From the opening whistle they were the better team today. They were faster, they were more physical, they played better football. There is nothing really else to be said. The Patriots were not going to let this game get away from them.
2.) How would this particular Patriots offense handle the elements?
If the Patriots are to have home-field advantage throughout the play-offs, it would have been nice to see how the Patriots played in terrible elements. Today was a perfect test. Snowstorm, wind chill at 9 degrees, swirling winds and (the most underrated part of the field) a grass field.
Secretly (or I guess not really secret anymore) but this offense is perfectly suited to beating the elements, which is important for January. They can run the ball (124 yards total) which is important as passing is more difficult in these conditions.
But don’t tell that to Tom Brady. Brady continued his march towards a Most-Valuable Player award by passing for a season 369 yards and throwing for two scores. The way he did it was the most impressive. Most passes were not of the deep variety. Brady would take a quick drop, fire it to his receiver and get the yardage. He picked apart the Tampa 2 defense all day. The only thing that slowed them down was drops from his receivers.
This offense did two things. One, it controlled the ball. The Pats had the ball for 40 minutes while the Bears only had the ball for 20 minutes. Now, part of this can be due to the play of the defense which forced 4 turnovers. This offense was a huge part of the ball control. The Patriots had 4 drives last more than 5 minutes. The Bears only had one possession last longer than 3 minutes.
The other thing the offense did was set the Bears up for a big play. Case in point being the last play of the first half. With the Bears expecting another quick pass, Deion Branch blew by the defense and was left all alone streaking down the sideline. Of course, Tom Brady found him and they connected for a 56 yard touchdown. Tom Brady is putting this offense at a higher efficiency than any offense I have seen.
3.) How would the rush defense play without Brandon Spikes in the line-up?
Brandon Spikes is the Patriots second best run stopper at linebacker next to defensive leader Jerrod Mayo. Spikes also started a 4 game suspension today for violating the leagues performance enhancing drugs policy. The rush defense was quite fine without him. They held the Bears to only 47 yards rushing and were still fast and physical even in the conditions. When a defense holds an offense to 7 points and forces 4 turnovers, there really is nothing to complain about.
This team is peaking at the right time as they always seem to do. Next week the Patriots have a meeting against the Green Bay Packers who may be without Aaron Rodgers who suffered a concussion today. The Patriots clinched a playoff spot today and thanks to the Miami Dolphins beating the New York Jets, are much closer to the division title then they were last week. the job isn’t done yet and the Patriots need to keep playing until they have the best record in the AFC.
Let it snow.