By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — What a weird football game.
Really, there’s no other word to describe that one other than “weird.” I guess “strange” might work. “Uncharacteristically sloppy” or “needlessly close” or “full-on banana sandwich” might do it justice as well.
It is a bit nutty to understand at the same time that the Patriots won the game and the Patriots also:
–Fumbled on a kick return
–Allowed Mitchell Trubisky to literally run all over the field, looking at times like a cross between Gale Sayers and Walter Payton
–Muffed a punt at the 4-yard line
–Lost the football and their starting running back early in the second quarter
–Dropped a gift-wrapped interception in the end zone
–Got called for seven accepted penalties for 64 yards
–Dropped a pass to hand an interception to the opponent
–Committed 15-yard penalties on two separate punts
–Had to burn a timeout on a defensive third down because they only had 10 players on the field
–Sent a punt deep into the end zone while punting from the 33-yard line in the final minutes
–Allowed a Hail Mary to be completed on the game’s final play
That’s a whole lot of miscues. And yet, the Patriots won by seven points.
I imagine that’s why Bill Belichick was a bit dour at the postgame podium — well, more dour than usual. Sometimes we read too much into the comments (and non-comments) of the head coach, but sometimes you can surmise exactly how he’s feeling about a particular game. Sometimes he’s not quite as bothered or relieved or pleased as you might expect him to be, and on Sunday, he didn’t seem extraordinarily happy with anything.
But, as with any strange, wonky football game full of errors and mistakes, it’s always better to experience teachable moments in games that end in a victory.
Let’s delve into some leftover thoughts from that much-too-close 38-31 victory in Chicago, shall we?
–What happened, exactly, when the defense completely lost track of Mitchell Trubisky several times over? Let’s examine.
On Trubisky’s 8-yard run on a third-and-6 on the opening Chicago possession, Adam Butler lined up right over the center but ended up getting ridden all the way to the outside, thus leaving a gaping lane for Trubisky to run through to pick up a first down.
That drive ended in a punt, though. No harm, no foul.
But on the second play of the Bears’ second drive, Trubisky ran for another 11 yards. On this play, Trey Flowers lined up at the right end spot but twisted inside on his pass rush. That move vacated that side of the field, allowing Trubisky to turn a second-and-13 into a manageable third-and-2.
Trubisky converted that third-and-2 by — you guessed it — running for the first down. On that one, though, the Patriots had better gap control; Trubisky just did a good job of getting around Lawrence Guy and running to the sticks.
On the next drive, though, came the touchdown run. And that thing was a mess.
Flowers and Adrian Clayborn did a good job to get Trubisky to sprint backward 20 yards. Only Russell Wilson turns a play like that into anything. But Trubisky spun away from Clayborn, turned back to the middle of the field and realized he only had to beat Adam Butler and Dont’a Hightower to the pylon, and he had the blockers to make it happen.
As treacherous as that result was, the error was mainly in the failure to record a sack.
Now, given Trubisky’s penchant for taking off and running, you might think that the Patriots would figure it out at halftime and prevent it from happening again. But, well, no. On the Bears’ third play of the second half, Trubisky ran for 39 yards.
That play was a total embarrassment. There’s no other way to put it.
On this play, Eric Rowe blitzed off the right edge, and Dont’a Hightower rushed off the right edge. The five-man rush again left a gaping hole for the quarterback right up the middle:
Rowe almost got the sack. But didn’t. Trubisky took off but should have been stopped after 15 yards, but Stephon Gilmore whiffed on a tackling attempt.
Elandon Roberts and Patrick Chung then had Trubisky trapped against the sideline:
The play should have ended there, but Roberts’ one-handed tackling attempt was weak. Trubisky easily slipped it, picked up a block, and then was off to the races. The Bears were set up with a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and scored shortly thereafter.
I suppose, breaking all that down, that the positive news would be that a lot of that is correctable. The touchdown run was a bit of a fluky type of execution for Trubisky, but if the defensive line focuses on controlling those gaps in the middle, some of this should theoretically be somewhat easy to clean up. They did a good job of playing responsibly on handoffs, so perhaps Trubisky’s running ability caught them by surprise a bit.
And, well, a linebacker should be able to make an open-field tackle on a quarterback running like a chicken who broke free of the coop. That’s gotta get cleaned up.
–Not to entirely pick on Elandon Roberts, but, man oh man:
You’ve simply got to catch that one. No excuse. He did not. The Bears scored a touchdown on the next play. Yikes. You never want to have this GIF get tweeted about you during a game:
–Watching these GIFs is pretty educational on the two long Trubisky runs, by the way:
Watching Hightower on that second one is pretty impressive. Terrible play all around, but at least the defensive captain never quit on the play.
–Cordarelle Patterson went full Mark Sanchez for his fumble. You never want to go full Mark Sanchez.
(Stephen A. Smith voice) HOWEVER … one way to make up for a fumble on your own 25-yard line is to put an absolutely ridiculous, preposterous, nonsensical move on some poor special teamer to break off a kick return for a touchdown. And folks, let me tell you: This little sidestep move on Kevin Toliver was ridiculous.
A ridiculous move.
Some might say that the mid-play high five celebration and the slow-step into the end zone was also ridiculous, especially after the earlier fumble. But I suppose you earn some leeway when you can do things like turn would-be tacklers into bowling balls.
–The Jonathan Jones interception was also ridiculous. In one motion, the corner spun, leaped, and extended one arm to snatch a would-be reception out of the air.
(J.C. Jackson’s pick was also about a nine out of 10 on the degree of difficulty scale.)
–Regular readers of this here column are familiar with the weekly edition of the #FerociousJuke of the game. Generally that involves a ball carrier. But this week, James White was able to record a #FerociousJuke while running a route against Leonard Floyd.
White faked like he was cutting to the middle of the field before planting a foot and running an out. Floyd tried to cover it, but his knees and ankles didn’t cooperate:
Some day teams might stop putting linebackers in single coverage against James White. Some day.
–Regular readers are also familiar with the concept of Zero Humans Defense, a scheme that has been sweeping the nation for some time. This concept is generally a tongue-in-cheek little joke, as coverage breakdowns happen to every team. (They do seem to happen more often against the Patriots though. The Steelers have completely forgotten to cover Chris Hogan or Rob Gronkowski multiple times over the past several years.)
But what was not a joke was the Bears’ “coverage” on James White on a third-and-2 in the fourth quarter. The Patriots were backed up on their own 12 after Edelman’s muffed punt. They led by just seven points. If the Bears could force a punt, they’d have to travel only about 50 yards to tie the game.
But instead of forcing a punt, they “covered” James White like this:
That’s just dreadful. White was the focal point of the offense all day, and yet the Bears allowed him to literally have a 20-yard pocket to get comfortable in.
Trying to watch a football game here, Bears. Would be nice if you delivered.
–(Sometimes I do think that Chris Hogan stole Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.)
–Julian Edelman offered the first ever #FerociousSpank in Leftover Patriots Thoughts history:
Congratulations to him.
Akiem Hicks liked it:
Edelman went full Edelman early in this game. After Kyle Fuller broke up a pass intended for Edelman on a third down, Edelman immediately sought out Fuller to get in his face and likely inform him that despite the most recent results, the receiver didn’t think much of the cornerback as a football player! It was quite the heated exchange.
I probably say this every week, but playing against Edelman must be exhausting.
–Whoever it was (tight end Ben Braunecker) that got bowled over by Dont’a Hightower on the punt block must have had a tough time sleeping on Sunday night. It was a straight up bully move. It wasn’t even necessarily a punt block play by the Patriots; Hightower just destroyed his man without having to slow down for even a half of a step, and so he found himself blocking a punt with his sternum a second later.
Just … watch:
We’re going to end it there. There’s just no topping that.
(Screen shots from NFL.com/GamePass)