BOSTON (CBS) — It wasn’t supposed to be this one-sided.
When the Patriots-Bears matchup was assessed during the week, it was clear that two teams going in opposite directions were set to square off at Gillette Stadium. Yet even though the Bears had lost three of four, there remained the chance that the team could come together before their bye week, pick up an important road win and perhaps save their season.
But that did not happen. Not even close.
The Patriots absolutely flattened the Bears in the first half, scoring points on their first six drives (five touchdowns, one field goal), emphasized by a barrage at the end of the first half when they scored 21 points in 57 seconds.
For the Bears, things got ugly fast, as they went from bad to much, much worse. For the Patriots, it was about as good an afternoon as they could have wanted.
Here are the Ups and the (difficult to find) Downs from the win.
In a season when he’s been discussed as either old or washed up or trade bait, Mr. Tom Brady has proven rather thoroughly that he can still play this game.
The quarterback turned in the closest thing to a perfect game as the sport allows, completing 30 of his 35 passes (85.7 percent) for 354 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked zero times, the first time that’s happened all season.
It was simply masterful, one of the greatest games in a Hall of Fame career, and he made it look easy.
It’s safe to say that there won’t be any questions about Gronkowski being 100 percent anymore. Gronk was Gronk on this afternoon, catching nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
His final play of the game was vintage Gronk, as he caught a third-down pass over the middle of the field before shoving would-be tackler Ryan Mundy down to the turf. In shaking the defensive back’s tackle attempt, Gronkowski gave himself a free pass to the end zone. It was Gronk being Gronk, and we know the Patriots are a tough team to beat when that’s happening.
“That’s the way he’s been since he got to our team, fortunately for us,” Brady said of Gronk. “He’s a tough matchup — he’s just big, fast, strong. And when he plays like Beast Mode, he’s tough to stop.”
The receiver turned in career highs and was instrumental in the offensive game plan, catching 11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.
What’s more, Brady looked to LaFell regularly on the first play of drives, an indication that the quarterback not only knows what he has in the receiver but also trusts him to regularly come through for the team.
The defense played outstanding in the first half, forcing four punts on the Bears’ first five drives and then forcing a fumble on the sixth. That fumble, forced by Zach Moore and Dont’a Hightower, was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. He had the presence of mind to get up with the ball and run it in for the score, stretching the Patriots’ lead to 38-7 just before halftime.
The game was all but over, thanks in large part to that play.
Rob Gronkowski (again)
The negatives from this game were few and far between, but Gronkowski leaving the game after his 46-yard touchdown due to dehydration is one of them.
In all likelihood, Gronk will be just fine after some treatment. But leaving a game due to an ailment is never a good thing, so No. 87 lands on the list of Downs.
File this one under “Nit-Picking,” because Browner played pretty well overall. But he was called for two penalties, the first of which negated a Devin McCourty interception, the second of which wasn’t even enough to prevent Martellus Bennett from catching a touchdown.
Again, on the whole Browner played pretty well, but with the Broncos coming to town next weekend, he has a little bit of work to do as he continues to sharpen his skills after missing the start of the season.
Goal Line Rushing
It didn’t hurt them in this game (obviously), but in closer contests, the Patriots are going to need to be better when gaining tough yards on the goal line. With Stevan Ridley gone for the year, nobody in the group of running backs could get the ball into the end zone. It’s a combination between the man with the ball and his blockers, of course, and the Patriots couldn’t get six despite a number of runs from inside the 5-yard line.
Shane Vereen? Julian Edelman?
The running back gained just 22 yards on five carries, and though he caught three passes for 23 yards, he did drop a pass that hit him in the hands. … Julian Edelman also had a couple of drops … but then again, Edelman returned a punt for 42 yards and set up a touchdown. … OK, it’s hard to come up with Downs from this game, so let’s just stop right now.
MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON