Pre-Game Meal: Patriots vs Chicago Bears

This man loves the snow... Bring it on, Chicago.

NEPD Staff Writer B. Delabarrera

At 10-2, the New England Patriots will travel west to Soldier Field in Chicago, IL for the first time in ten years to try and prove their dominance in both conferences. Meanwhile, I have to study for finals… but whatever.

The Chicago Bears (9-3) are arguably one of the best teams in the NFC and their 3rd ranked defense could even be better than the statistics suggest; the Bears defense is only allowing 16 PPG on average in 2010.

In recent weeks, RB Matt Forte has helped Jay Cutler balance the offense more. This has limited the erratic Culter’s turnovers and propelled Chicago to its current 5-game winning streak. New England will see a somewhat familiar face on the Bears’ defense, where Julius Peppers (7 sacks, 3 FF, and 1 INT)  has found his niche at defensive end.

You may remember the Patriots mulling the idea of going after Peppers during his free-agency period this past summer before he agreed with the Bears. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the linebackers playing behind Peppers? Lance Briggs and a revitalized Brian Urlacher have been wreaking havoc against opposing offenses as well.

This afternoon, Tom Brady will, once again, be the main focus of the Patriots offensive gameplan as the Bears fortification against the run has been intimidating to say the least. Considering that the aerial method of attack has yielded New England a whopping 31 PPG and Tom Brady a passer rating of 109.5, it will be up to Chicago’s (over-?)confident defense to silence the high-flying visiting team.

Just like Mike Martz will have to keep his best watch on Brady and his plethora of receivers, it’s going to be just as crucial for New England to watch out for the speedster Johnny Knox, who has connected with the long arm of Cutler for 20+ yard passes 14 times this season.

Jay Cutler vs. Patriots Pressure – Jay Cutler has been playing with a smaller field these days, and that hasn’t been a bad thing at all so far: 545 yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs. By using three-step drops and quick throws, Cutler has been able to move the ball efficiently enough to lead his team to five straight wins.

One needs to look no further to the turnover statistic to find out how Cutler was able to get his game together, after throwing 9 interceptions in his first 8 games, he has thrown only 1 in his last 3 games (none in the last 2 games actually). It seems that limiting the deep attempts has calmed the erratic quarterback for now but he can expect to see a few schemes sent his way by coach Belichick that he won’t be ready for. When that happens, the Patriots young defensive backs must be alert to take advantage.

Without rookie DE/LB Brandon Spikes, the Patriots are going to have to call on DE Eric Moore, LB Tully Banta-Cain to contribute a little extra to the pass rush. These guys know how Cutler performs when he gets furstrated and understand how to ease the process; I expect the Patriots defense to come out swinging to prove that they can hang with an elite defensive team. Oh by the way, if the pressure does, in fact, get through the offensive line, Jay Cutler has recorded a career-high 8 fumbles this year… let’s get it, D! (He also has had +3 sacks in 8 games this season!)

Johnny Knox has scrambled for over 740 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns, but at 6’0″, 185 lbs, Patriots rookie CB Devin McCourty should be able to muscle the Bears wideout at the line and stick with him for most of the game. I wish someone could tell this man how proud I am of his play this season, I hope he can manage to steal a pass from Cutler and help work his way to become the second Patriots DROY in three years.

Hernandez vs. Olsen – I expect the Bears to be ready for Hernandez, but playing against this Cover 2 defense, he will still have opportunities to shine when he touches the football. I know the Patriots young tight ends are very aware of what Bears Pro-Bowl TE Greg Olsen brings to the field and must be very excited to play against him. I suppose either tight end for New England has an equally good shot at showing up Olsen, but my gut is telling me that it’s going to be the NFL’s youngest player. Hernandez saw an increased role against the Jets last Monday night and came up clutch, particularly on one diagonal dash across the field at Gillette. His athleticism should  be very effective once again against Chicago’s secondary, especially when spread out wide.

Greg Olsen has been doing his job well for Chicago this season, scoring 5 times through the air, but in recent weeks he has seen his production decreasing. I expect Belichick to extend the trend of keeping Olsen quiet this afternoon by once again sacrificing a safety when he attacks the field. Most of his recent successes have been in the blocking game, paving the way for Matt Forte.

Matt Forte vs. Benny & Woody – After a somewhat quiet start to the 2010 season, Forte has been running better, nearly doubling his average yards per carry up from about 2.5. The Chicago halfback has chalked up 748 yards on the ground and 389 in the air scoring a total of 8 times (5 and 3, respectively). Forte could easily be the spark if the Bears need him to be, and it’s going to be extra important to tackle this shifty back at first contact. The loss of Brandon Spikes’ tackling ability will be missed but I know the guys can step up and slow Forte down. The Patriots could move NT Vince Wilfork over to the left or right ends to send Matty a message when he tries to bounce it outside. This is a guy with big-play potential though, in order to hang with Chicago in their house, the Patriots can’t let him break loose.

Patriots RBs having been aggravating defenses and extending leads all season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 11 touchdowns this season which is truly a testament to just how balanced this offense has been this season and post-Moss. Danny Woodhead has been a menace to plan against as he continues to pile up first downs in key moments and continuously positions Tom Brady to score with ease. If these two can get it going for their team again this week, I don’t know how they can be stopped. With brick walls like Urlacher and Briggs (+130 tackles, 3 sacks & INTs combined), however, the former scenario seems like it would be a bit too good to be true.

With a 70% chance of snow in the Chicago area, I expect this one to be a cold, hopefully snowy, and close one, but Belichick and Brady come out on top with their team, in a old-fashioned way: 23-17 Patriots

-B.DelaBarrera

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2 Responses to “Pre-Game Meal: Patriots vs Chicago Bears”

  1. BDelabarrera says:

    In regards to Spikes, I’m sure that ADHD medication makes studying a massive playbook way easier, as a rookie especially. However, that still doesn’t mean it should be used for that purpose at all. The league is going to have to figure out a way to regulate players with “learning disabilities” and cipher through the ones who were irresponsibly given prescriptions in college.

    I hope McCourty can bounce back too and continue once more on a very impressive rookie campaign. Getting those pass rushers back for the playoffs if my equivalent to the “priceless” part of the old MasterCard commercials… we need that reinforcement on the line for the intensity of the post season.

  2. Ryan says:

    Remember that game last year with the Titans? 56-0? Well I hate to say this, but they SOMEHOW play well in the snow. Thank god, I hope for SNOW in the play offs. Nextly, McCourty hopefully will bounce back. The Patriots are poised to be able to get Pryor, Wright, and Whilite back. Hopefully this will be in time for the play offs. My last comment for those who thinks Spikes thing is a big deal. I heard it is adderall and that he is treating ADHD, but at any rate he should no better. It would show up as an aphetamine so, lets hope he gets back. My point: how would this help him?

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