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Random Thoughts: Bears at Patriots

The Patriots dominated the overmatched Chicago Bears in all three phases and cruised to an easy win.

There weren't many elements of the Patriots 51-23 demolition of the overmatched Chicago Bears to complain about and not many of them made it into our Random Thoughts this week.

Must win - Given the difficult nature of the upcoming schedule, some felt the Bears game represented a must-win situation for the Patriots. New England faced a stretch of Denver, Indy, Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego after the Chicago game so the team could ill-afford to slip up against the one losing foe it opposed during the stretch. While the players themselves likely wouldn't admit to the importance of one game over any other, they certainly played with the urgency that accompanies such a predicament. The game was never competitive as the Patriots pounded away at the overmatched Bears and the outcome was decided early. Whether the remainder of the schedule proves to be as formidable as many believe, New England took care of business.



LaFocus on LaFell -** Starting with a strong second half in Kansas City, Brandon LaFell has emerged as a key cog in the Patriots offense. He's been more involved in the attack in recent weeks, and against the Bears that meant plenty of action right from the outset. LaFell caught four passes for 45 yards in the first quarter as he went to work on rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller. LaFell toyed with him, catching outs with ease past the first down sticks. In fairness to Fuller, he entered the game with a broken hand and a hip pointer and was soon out of the game. LaFell finished the day with 11 for 124 yards and continues to emerge as a quality free agent addition to the passing game.

He's still good - It's not like Tom Brady hasn't dominated before but he's in the midst of an incredible month even for him. After completing 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns, Brady now has 18 touchdowns with just two picks this season. Over the last month he now has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions while enjoying improved protection from a constantly changing offensive line. Brady continues to move well in the pocket, none better than on a key 21-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski on third-and-18 in the second quarter that set up a touchdown. Give him time and he'll pick you apart, regardless of weapons.


The New England Patriots take on the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

Special attention -The Patriots enjoyed a strong day on special teams in a number of areas. The coverage was outstanding on kickoffs, limitingChris Williamsto 18.8 yards per return. Julian Edelman also turned in a 43-yard punt return that led to one of the Patriots three touchdowns inside the two-minute warning in the first half. The Patriots also used an interesting wrinkle on the Bears first punt of the game when they put a vise guy in tight, forcing Chicago to move its gunner inside. The Patriots applied heavy pressure and Patrick O'Donnell'spunt traveled just 37 yards. All around a solid afternoon forScott O'Brien's** boys.

KISS - As dominant as the Patriots were throughout the game there were times when the coaching staff seemed to outthink itself. After taking a quick 7-0 lead the Patriots were knocking on the door with a first-and-goal at the 2 on their second drive. That's when Bill Belichick and Co. tried to get tricky, rushing the offense to the line to run the ball in an effort to catch Chicago off guard. It didn't work, and hasn't worked much this year. Shane Vereen was stuffed for a yard, Tom Brady was stuffed on a sneak and Jonas Gray was similarly stuffed for no gain. All three plays came in the hurry up and none had a chance. The Patriots also took a timeout with :09 left in the first quarter, presumably in an effort to kick a potential field goal with the slight wind that was blowing. But with the ball inside the 1 it seemed like a waste of a timeout. The Patriots tried the hurry-up-and-run thing again later in the game and Vereen was again stacked up for no gain. This time Brady threw a touchdown pass on the next play, which given the Bears atrocious defense all day seemed like the more prudent approach all along. Keep it simple.

Browner up and down - Brandon Browner looked much better in his second game with the Patriots, showing some emotion after an early pass breakup and his trademark physical nature throughout the dominant first half. He also locked up with tight end Martellus Bennett on a few occasions, something many fans have called for given his massive size. Browner made a play covering Bennett on an early third down but also was called for an illegal contact penalty when he was beaten badly by the tight end and tackled him later in the half. In the second half he was beaten by Bennett for a touchdown on a play he was called for interference. Overall it was more good than bad for Browner, who will be an important piece to the secondary given Alfonzo Dennard's sporadic playing time this season.

More Moore - With Chandler Jones reportedly on the shelf possibly for the rest of the regular season it will be important for the Patriots to find some potential replacements in the pass rush. Rookie Zach Moore appears to be one candidate for such a contribution. While he hasn't stormed onto the scene he has emerged in recent weeks and is starting to make some plays. He was involved with Dominique Easley on a strip sack of Jay Cutler late in the first half on a play that ended with Rob Ninkovich's fumble return for a touchdown. Moore will likely remain in a situational pass rushing role but his raw athleticism could provide a boost with Jones down.


Empty full -** Despite taking a 38-7 lead into halftime the Patriots opened the second half with an empty set and five receivers. Brady proceeded to throw the ball on six consecutive plays out of this formation, the last of which resulted in a 46-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. It was a curious plan considering the score, but there may have been a method to the madness. Brady threw the ball to Tim Wright on three of those six plays, completing passes of 8, 6 and 6 yards. Perhaps the mindset was to get Brady and Wright more comfortable together and the score allowed them to do so in a game setting without fear of negative plays costing the team. Wright caught a touchdown in the first half and finished with seven catches for 61 yards.

Extra points - For the second time in two years the Patriots scored three touchdowns in less than a minute. They turned the trick late in the first half in a 57-second span to turn a 17-7 lead into a 38-7 blowout. New England also scored three times in 52 seconds on Thanksgiving in 2012 against the Jets in the infamous butt fumble game. … The Patriots have now won 13 straight against NFC North teams. They also improved to 41-9 in inter-conference games since 2002. … New England closed out October with another win and is now 41-9 in the season's second month since 2003. The last loss in October came Oct. 2, 2005 against San Diego. … The game marked the Patriots 100th outing at Gillette Stadium and the team is 85-15 (.850 winning percentage). … The Patriots went without a turnover for the fourth straight game. … With three touchdown catches Rob Gronkowski now has 50 touchdowns for his career, which ties him withRandy Moss for second all-time in Patriots history behind Stanley Morgan's 67.


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