By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots look to extend their current winning streak to four games when they face the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium next Sunday afternoon. The Bears are having such a frustrating season that wide receiver Brandon Marshall could be heard in the locker room yelling at teammates after Chicago’s 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field last Sunday.
The Bears come to Foxboro with a 3-4 record, putting them in third place in the NFC North. Surprisingly, the team is winless at home, going 0-3 at Soldier Field while going 3-1 on the road. Chicago trails the all-time regular season series against New England 3-8. The teams first met on October 21, 1973, in the fourth season after the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. New England won that game 13-10 at Soldier Field. Their most-recent meeting was also at Soldier Field, a 36-7 Patriots victory on December 12, 2010. In their only postseason meeting, the Bears defeated the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986.
Bears on Offense
Chicago’s offense has frequently stalled this season due to turnovers. Quarterback Jay Cutler currently has a respectable 94.4 passer rating, but he has committed multiple turnovers in each of the Bears’ four losses. Last Sunday, Marshall told reporters he felt the team had a “stud offensive line,” but that line has given up 17 sacks, tied for 8th most in the NFL. Marshall leads the Bears with five touchdown receptions, but his 31 catches are only 4th-best on the team. Running back Matt Forte, who leads the team in both rushing (448 yards) and pass receptions (52 catches), is the team’s most consistent offensive threat.
Bears on Defense
The Bears have a middle-of-the-road defense, ranking 16th in the league in total yards (365 YGP) and 22nd in scoring defense (24.4 PPG). Consistency has been an issue this season, as the defense has developed a habit of playing very well for certain stretches of a game before giving up big plays at the worst possible moments. Against Miami, on a critical 4th-and-one in the third quarter, the Bears allowed Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to rush for 30 yards on a read-option play. Chicago’s biggest defensive threats are defense end Willie Young (seven sacks) and cornerback Kyle Fuller (three interceptions).
This is a Bears team that is playing much better on the road than at home, so the Patriots may not get as much of a home-field advantage as they have against most opponents. New England’s defense has slipped to 12th in the league in total yards, so if the Bears solve their turnover problems, the Patriots may have difficulty keeping them out of the end zone. Even though New England sits in first place in the AFC east with a 5-2 record, this game can be called a must-win for the Patriots. After Sunday, New England’s next five opponents have a combined 25-9 record, so victories are going to become much harder to come by in the next few weeks.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.