The Patriots went three and out on their first drive of the game, but the Bears took the field and didn't even get to punt. Cornerback Asante Samuel made a nice jump on a pass from Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, intercepting the football on its way to wideout Bernard Berrian.
"He picked off a slant. We were in straight blitz coverage. No help. No one behind him. I mean he's as man-to-man as you can get," said safety Artrell Hawkins of the play by Samuel.
Samuel was all grins after the game, carrying the game balls from all three picks with him out of the locker room.
"Asante Samuel's game was big today. I mean he had a Pro Bowl game today, straight up and down. He could've had five picks, I think," said Hawkins. "He played the pass perfectly."
"Man, I could have had six," joked Samuel when he heard that Hawkins estimated five. "I dropped a couple. One on the deep ball, I misplayed it so I left a couple of balls on the field.
"It's hard to tell [which team was better]. They made a lot of plays. It was a battle. They had a good defense, and we had a good defense. It was a good game. It was just about making the plays at the time when we need them. At the end of the game if they go down and score a touchdown, they win. So we made the plays and it kept us in the game."
Chicago's offense struggled in this game.
Grossman threw three interceptions and all three of them went to Samuel, who also led the defense with nine solo tackles. Grossman fumbled another one on a muffed snap only 5 yards from the goal line. The football was grabbed up by Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour, who played an outstanding game and had already blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt earlier in the first half. Seymour also had the game's only sack when he took down Grossman in the third quarter, bringing his sack total to 4.0 for the season.
The Patriots offense was victim to the Bears attack-the-football style of defense as well.
"They go after that ball," said quarterback Tom Brady after the game. "Their coaches must really preach that and they must work hard at it at practice. I have never seen anything like that. When you watch them on tape that is exactly what they do. [Coach Bill] Belichick must have stood up there 10 times in front of us this week and said, 'Of all the teams we play, this team strips the ball more than anybody.' That is why they get so many turnovers. They just attack the football and they have such great team speed that they get there. It is pretty impressive."
Brady threw two interceptions in the game, both to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. The Bears defense has recorded at least two turnovers in every game this season.
"We could have scored many more points than we scored," said Brady. "When you turn the ball over it just kills you. That is like Denver this year. That is like Indianapolis. We have had a bunch of games where we just haven't really protected the football. And every time we sit up here we talk about protecting the football, and that is what we have to do a better job of."
Receiver Reche Caldwell and running backs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney each lost fumbles in this game for a combined three turnovers – five including Brady's intercepted passes. The Bears gave up four turnovers, overall.
"This was crazy," said Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin after the game. "As a defense you go out there and you create turnovers and as an offense you give up turnovers. I think it's what we expected. We expected them to be physical on both sides of the ball. Guys made plays and guys gave up plays. We've just got to keep playing. I think the guys did a good job of that. I think we've got a lot of work cut out for us. We've just got to get back to work this week. It's a big win for us, but every win is [big] in the NFL."
Colvin had five tackles and four quarterback hurries, helping to keep the young Grossman under pressure during most of the game.
Punt, interception, interception, blocked field goal, fumble, fumble, touchdown – that's how the first seven drives of the game ended in this sloppy but hard-fought showdown.
The Patriots took the early lead by scoring a touchdown with 9:08 remaining in the second quarter. Then both teams exchanged field goals, bringing the score to 10-3 with the Pats still leading at halftime.
Unfortunately, Pats veteran linebacker Junior Seau headed for the locker room before the half was up. He sustained a right arm injury while tackling Chicago running back Cedric Benson only two plays after Maroney ran in the Pats first touchdown. Seau fell on his right arm, which landed on the back of Benson's ankle. The arm flexed severely above the wrist, and Seau left with it in what looked like an inflatable splint, tears welling up in his eyes. His return was originally listed as "Questionable," but was later downgraded to "Out." Neither he, nor rookie lineman Ryan O'Callaghan, who left the game with a neck injury, returned to action.
Asked about Seau's condition after the game, coach Bill Belichick said, "I'm not sure exactly. I'll wait until I know more. I don't know. But, certainly we missed him and if he's not able to play we'll miss him going forward."
Penalties hurt the Pats late in the game.
Late in the third quarter, Hawkins was charged with a pass interference penalty on a toss from Grossman to Berrian that resulted in 45 yards of lost ground for the Patriots. Entering this game, Berrian was averaging 18.3 yards-per game. He's Grossman's favorite deep threat, and Grossman kept slinging them his way throughout the game.
"It was under thrown, but the rules are the rules," said Hawkins of the play. "They called it and it was a big swing in field position. Fortunately for me, the offense came out and they answered the bell. At that point it's 10-10. It's a tie game. We're in the fourth quarter. Tom comes back down, hustles and bustles and gets the ball in the end zone."
Brady and the offense executed a stellar scoring drive immediately after the Bears first touchdown. The 11-play touchdown drive covered 73 yards and included a third down pass to Benjamin Watson for a game-long 40 yards.
"That was a big play. We were backed up. We were trying to hit something there in the intermediate and they covered us pretty good. I just bought a little time and the line held up great and I saw Ben. Ben didn't know what happened. I threw it to him and looked up he made a great catch," said Brady in reflection.
Brady made things happen again three plays later when he scrambled out of the pocket and put a quick move on middle linebacker and former Defensive Player of the Year, Brian Urlacher.
Brady described the move as, "An uncoordinated stutter step is probably what it looked like. I am not the most athletic guy, so maybe he was thinking that I was sliding. … At least I can tell my kids one day that I shook Brian Urlacher. They probably won't believe me."
Brady made off with 11 yards on the play and a first down when the Pats really needed it. He also ran a 3-yard sneak later in the drive before sealing the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Watson.
"He had two big runs on that touchdown drive," said Belichick of Brady after the game. "Those were certainly key plays. He made a nice move there coming up the middle on [Brian] Urlacher. On the short yardage sneak, that was a play that he kind of checked to when he saw some space in there and thought he could make it and those were big runs, going into the game, [not] the guy who you think is going to have a couple of big runs for you, but he did."
But the game wasn't over. The Bears got the ball back. Grossman threw it up to Berrian again, and this time it was cornerback Ellis Hobbs that drew a pass interference call. The penalty supplied the hungry Bears offense with 30 yards, and which they turned into a field goal.
The Pats had one more possession and still controlled the lead at 17-13, but then came Dillon's fumble and the Bears were back in it.
"We have to take care of the football much better. It goes for all of us right up and down the roster. Everyone who handles the ball has to do a better job," said Brady. "That has been a problem all year. [We have] turned it over too much. That is why we are 8-3."
Luckily, the Patriots had one more turnover coming as well. Grossman threw another deep one and Samuel got to it for his third interception of the game. His three interceptions tied a team record, though no Patriots player has done picked that many since 1983.
Brady kneeled the ball three times, and the clock ran out with the Patriots leading by 4 points. The Patriots take on the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium next Sunday afternoon.
Quote of note:"No. Tom [Brady] would never fake me out and you can tell him I said that." – linebacker Rosevelt Colvin on whether Brady has ever faked him out like he did Urlacher.
Faulk catches up
With a 9-yard catch in the Patriots fourth quarter touchdown drive – his 262nd career reception – Kevin Faulk became the Patriots' all-time leader in receptions by a running back. Faulk passed Tony Collins' mark of 261 career receptions, which was set in 1987. Faulk has recorded 25 or more receptions in each of the last seven seasons, including this year, and is the Patriots' all-time leading kickoff returner.
Gostkowski sends one
Rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski split the uprights on a 52-yard field goal attempt with one second left in the first half to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead. Gostkowski has made nine of his last 10 field goals and is 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) on the season. The 52-yard boot was the longest field goal of Gostkowski's career.
Brady wins a record
Today's 17-14 win over the Bears was the 76th victory of Tom Brady's regular-season and playoff career, making him the winningest quarterback in Patriots history. Brady's total of 76 wins eclipses Steve Grogan's previous record of 75 wins, achieved over 16 seasons from 1975-90. Brady's 76th win came in his 100th career start, giving him an overall record of 76-24 (.760). Grogan's career record was 75-63 (.543).