Chicago Bears column: The little yard that couldn’t: Bears versus Patriots
By MADDIE TOPLIFF
Contrary to last week’s Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots name is anything but underwhelming. NFL announcers love to talk about Tom Brady as much as the NBA loves to talk about LeBron James. The one difference is that LBJ does not make me want to pull my hair out.
The Chicago Bears returned home to potentially surprise the Patriots and their ringleader Brady at the classic Soldier Field last Sunday after a disappointing game in Miami the week before. A Bears loss in overtime is not necessarily surprising, but the Dolphins should not have been on the other end, especially with a second-string quarterback. Whatever. The past is in the past. Although facing Tom Brady doesn’t give Bears fans any reason to feel the warm fuzzies of hope, I know I much prefer an almost-guaranteed loss over a gigantic let-down. I’m not a pessimist; I just allow room to be surprised! What a jaw dropper Sunday turned out to be.
The Patriots flew in Sunday at 4-2 with an additional win–no bye week yet–and leverage on Chicago, having beat Miami badly 38-7 on Sept. 30.
The Patriots have been putting up huge numbers all season so far, averaging just over 29 points per game. However, their opponents haven’t shied away from going big either, averaging almost 25 points collectively, exposing their defense as a weak spot: 21st place in the league versus Chicago’s 3rd place as of last Sunday. New England’s defense could expect some similarities to last week’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs since Matt Nagy, head coach of the Bears, played the role of offensive coordinator for KC just last season.
On the Chicago side, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is no seasoned veteran like Brady, but he has been at least one of the team’s crucial playmakers, if not the team playmaker this season, having thrown for 9 touchdowns in the two games before Sunday. We’ve also seen power moves from defensive players like Kyler Fuller–last week’s Monster–and Khalil Mack, but Mack is not expected to be at 100 percent Sunday, still treating an ankle injury.
A huge sigh of relief left my body when I saw Mack dressed and on the sidelines for Chicago. Although I didn’t expect him to go off with his tender ankle, some Mack is better than none. He’s a “unifying presence” as the kids don’t say.
The first drive of the game belonged to the Patriots, and it was an explosive four minutes. Their running game made the Bears look incompetent. The drive began with 8 plays resulting in a touchdown for Julian Edelman, making the score 7-0 before the Bears even got to touch the football.
I wish the Bears would have taken notes on the running game in preparation for their first drive. It wasn’t completely terrible, though. Trubisky had a 14-yard run resulting in a first down, but alas, no points until a late-in-the quarter field goal. 3-7 New England with 3:50 left.
Chicago didn’t have to wait much longer, though. On the post-FG kickoff, safety DeAndre Houston-Carlson recovered a Patriots fumble, setting up the Bears on New England’s 24 yard line. Even with the fantastic field position, it looked like it would be a sad third down-and-out for Chicago until Trubisky had a jaw-dropping escape out of the pocket, running 8 yards into the end zone. 10-7 Bears? Wild. Fun fact: Chicago has the most points off of turnovers in the league.
In the first series of the second quarter, New England fumbled again, and the Bears recovered it again on the Patriots’ 35 yard line. With a lot of help from New England penalties, the Bears’ Jordan Howard was able to run it in for a Bears touchdown, extending Chicago’s lead. Music to my ears.
The music was soon interrupted. Apparently Chicago’s special teams couldn’t stop celebrating the team’s touchdown long enough to prevent New England’s Cordarrelle Patterson from running back the following kickoff: a 95-yard touchdown.
The Patriots grabbed another TD before the half–curse you, Brady–and sent the Bears to the locker room with a four-point deficit. Better than I was expecting, if we’re being frank.
Despite adding another hometown touchdown, third quarter was a mess for Chicago. The Patriots scored 10 more points, and the Bears were sloppy with a couple of careless penalties and a Trubisky interception. Trubisky threw to New England once more at the very beginning of the fourth quarter as well, and the Patriots didn’t stop rolling until they hit 38 points with 8 minutes remaining.
Chicago’s Fuller decided that New England needed an interception of their own, and picked off Brady, which eventually led to a Bears TD with a little more than 4 minutes of gametime left. 31-38 Patriots.
The Patriots made wasting game clock look professional, giving the Bears a measly 30 seconds to make something–read: a miracle–happen. The Bears were also out of timeouts.
I’m going to be honest, readers. The last play of the game made me almost lose my Cocoa Puff breakfast. With two whole seconds left, Trubisky was tasked with getting the ball from his hand to the end-zone, which was 55 yards away and surrounded by at least six Patriots. In true Hail Mary fashion, Trubisky found Bears wide receiver Kevin White on the one yard line. White was immediately enveloped by the downfield Patriots, who prevented further gain. The play was whistled dead, and so was my soul. A 54-out-of-55 yard gain with 0 seconds remaining.
I have to give credit to the offense for making 31 points–almost 38, but I’m over it–happen. The deficit ended up only being 7 points too, and I guess I should be grateful since the Patriots outscored the Bears 51-23 last time they met.
Chicago’s defense needs to regroup. They haven’t completely lost their stride, but 69 points in two weeks is a lot to allow when you’re supposedly in the top three best defenses in a league of 32 teams. The forced turnovers and resulting points are great, but they also need to tap in to foiling their opponents’ running game more, especially since we personally are struggling on the run.
The team also needs to practice having a little more endurance and consistency in the third and fourth quarters. Making big plays early literally does not matter if you make careless mistakes after halftime: this has been a theme in all three of the Bears’ losses.
Next week, the Bears stay home and host the New York Jets (3-4). The Jets are average, but are stronger on the run, with their top two rushers totalling 145 yards on the season, compared to the Bears’ Howard and Cohen totaling 110 yards. However, the Bears should hold the advantage in the passing game as long as Trubisky only passes to the players wearing orange and blue.
Hopefully Khalil Mack rallies this week during practice and puts on a show Sunday. He only had one tackle Sunday, and the Bears defense just doesn’t click as well without him at full strength.
Kickoff is at noon again on Sunday in Chicago.
Maddie’s Monster of the Game (MoG): Despite throwing 2 picks, QB Mitch Trubisky was the game’s leading rusher with 81 yards and 1 rushing TD in addition to his passing TD.