The Patriots lost to the Bears on Monday Night Football, as New England couldn't contain quarterback Justin Fields and couldn't produce enough offense between their two quarterbacks to catch up and make a game of it after halftime. The Bears rolled 33-14 in a surprisingly one-sided affair.
Mac Jones returned to action but played just three series before Bailey Zappe entered the game and quickly helped deliver two touchdowns. However, that would be as close as the Pats got, with the Bears pulling away in the second half to seal the win. Chicago's offense dominated on third down and strung together multiple long drives that enabled them to control the game and snuff out any potential comeback attempts by the Patriots who fall to 3-4 on the season with the defeat.
Here are the key takeaways from the game!
Mac Jones returns
After missing three games with a high ankle injury, Mac Jones returned to the starting lineup against the Bears. It was a slow start for the quarterback as the offense punted on their first two possessions of the game and some of the most productive plays were when Jones tucked the ball and ran it himself. Jones had 24 rushing yards on three attempts by early in the second quarter, a surprising total considering he was coming off the injury. It seemed like he wasn't quite in rhythm yet and was quick to leave the pocket.
Things would get worse for Mac on the third drive of the game, even after the offense started to string some first downs together. Flushed from the pocket, Jones made an ill-advised throw downfield while on the run with Bears defensive back Jaquan Brisker coming down with an interception. The team would respond by inserting Bailey Zappe back into the lineup for the fourth drive.
It was a stunted and disappointing return for Mac and we're left with more questions than answers at this point.
Zappe flashes signs of life
After entering the game in the early second quarter with his team down 10-0, Bailey Zappe quickly delivered two much-needed big plays, first completing a dump-off pass on 3rd-and-5 to Rhamondre Stevenson that went for 20 yards. On the next play, Zappe launched a deep pass for Jakobi Meyers. It wasn't a great throw but Meyers made a great adjustment in the air, gathered the pass in and got up in time to get into the end zone. With two big plays, Zappe and the offense got the Patriots back into the game, closing the score to 10-7 and the crowd at Gillette Stadium came to life.
Zappe wasn't done. After the Pats defense gave him and the offense back the ball, he came out firing with a 43-yard play action pass on first down that DeVante Parker came down with inside the Bears 10-yard-line. Rhamondre Stevenson would take it in for the score two plays later as the Patriots took their first and only lead of the game with just over six minutes left in the first half.
From there Zappe's performance looked a lot like Mac's did, not a lot of production and multiple turnovers to go alongside. Who starts next week against the Jets is anyone's guess.
Sloppy start sets tone
On both sides of the ball, it was a sporadic first half at best with the negative plays outnumbering the small handful of truly positive ones.
The Patriots defense had few answers for Fields and Bears offense out of the gate, allowing two scoring drives on Chicago's first two possessions and falling into a 10-0 hole late in the first quarter. Fields showed patience in the pocket, used his athleticism to buy time and made the most of his own designed runs. He picked up more rushing yards in the first half than a Bill Belichick defense has ever allowed to a quarterback (74). The Patriots tackling was spotty early as the Bears averaged 7.3 yards per play on their first two drives.
Coming off the second-quarter interception by Mac Jones, the defense briefly kicked into gear, forcing a three-and-out and punt. After a touchdown score, the defense made their first big play of the game, with Matthew Judon tipping a third-down pass attempt by Fields that went directly into the waiting arms of Myles Bryant for the interception. That would do it for defensive stops in the game.
After the Patriots took the lead the defense regressed, allowing a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown-scoring drive that made it 17-14 Chicago just after the two-minute warning before halftime. The offense would then commit their second turnover of the half with a bad exchange between Zappe and Jakobi Meyers leading to a fumble that the Bears recovered. The defense held Chicago to a field goal by the skin of their teeth after that giveaway, finally getting a stop at their five-yard line.
With two offensive turnovers and four long scoring drives allowed by the defense, it was not the first-half effort the Patriots hoped for and they entered the second half down by six points.
No second-half answers
Despite being down by just six points at the half the Patriots were unable to find any answers and turn things around in the second half to make up the difference. The first two Bears drives of the second half both ended in field goals but both also took 10 plays each and ate up nearly 10 minutes of the game time. The Patriots defense bent but didn't break, but the game was already getting out of reach as the Bears extended their lead to 26-14.
Meanwhile, the Patriots offense failed to put anything together in the third quarter with two three-and-outs that netted a total of four net yards. The initial productivity with Zappe under center quickly evaporated and the Patriots were unable to do much of anything offensively in the second half.
Chicago added on another touchdown to make it 33-14 early in the fourth quarter as both sides of the ball came up short in this one for the Patriots.
Patriots are now 3-4
With the disappointing loss the Patriots fall back below .500 and remain at the bottom of the AFC East with a divisional game on tap against the Jets next week. The defense struggled with Justin Fields in a similar fashion to the way they struggled with Lamar Jackson earlier in the year. The quarterback did way too much damage with his legs while the Bears running backs were also productive and kept the offense on time. The beleaguered Bears passing attack made the plays that they had to, surgically exploiting the Patriots pass defense throughout the game.
Offensively it's hard to know what's next for the Patriots. Mac Jones played just three series and had little success stringing anything together. Zappe made some plays down the field initially after he entered but the offense wasn't that much better over the course of the game as the Chicago defense made more plays than the Patriots D did over the course of the game.
Now 3-4, the Patriots need to turn things around quickly while they still can.