There were plenty of plays and plenty of mistakes for the Patriots Sunday afternoon in Chicago. In the end the former, especially in the kicking game, outweighed the latter for the 38-31 win over the Bears.
Playing without Rob Gronkowski (inactive, back/ankle) and with Sony Michel lost for the game with a knee injury, New England held on for the victory as Mitch Trubisky’s Hail Mary completion to Kevin White saw the receiver stopped at the 1-yard line as time expired.
It wasn’t pretty – New England had three turnovers including two lost fumbles and an interception. It wasn’t easy, either. It took a full 60 minutes for the Patriots (5-2) to get their first road win in three tries this season against a Bears (3-3) squad that was game for a full game.
But Bill Belichick’s team got the job done, thanks to some key, game-changing plays in the kicking game and an offense that did enough to head home with the win.
“Good to get a win on the road here,” Belichick said. “I thought we played competitively today. It was one of those unusual back-and-forth games. Big plays on both sides. Good to win. Good to be 5-2. Back in the division next week.”
Before moving on to the long week leading up to next Monday night’s trip to Buffalo to take on the Bills, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the down-to-the-wire win in the Windy City.
James White – With Michel out of action, the veteran mainstay was a key cog in the backfield. He did his usual damage through the air catching eight of 10 passes thrown his way for 57 yards including a pair of touchdowns. But White was also more of a contributor on the ground than his 11 rushes for 40 yards (3.6 avg.) might even indicate. White helped try to run the clock out late as essentially the four-minute back with eight carries that picked up a pair of first downs and nearly killed four minutes of clock.
Special Teams TDs – There were a lot of areas that were both good and bad in this game, and special teams would be included. But New England doesn’t leave Chicago without a pair of touchdowns in the kicking game. The first came when Cordarrelle Patterson, who lost a fumble on a kickoff earlier to set up a Bears score, returned a second quarter kickoff 95 yards for the touchdown. The second came in the third quarter when Dont’a Hightower bulled through to block Pat O’Donnell’s punt, with Kyle Van Noy recovering for the 29-yard scoop-and-score touchdown. It was the Patriots first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since 1996. The third phase came up big for big points in the big win.
Chris Hogan/Josh Gordon – After catching just 15 passes in the first six games, Hogan had his busiest day in Chicago. The veteran finished with six catches on seven targets for 63 yards, all but one catch for 3 yards coming in the second half. He also apparently avoided a knee injury that had him limping off with the trainers. Gordon had four catches on seven targets for exactly 100 yards, including a 55-yard catch-and-run play in the fourth quarter to set up a short TD pass. Gordon did run out of gas, it seemed, at the end of the run and wasn’t always on the same page as Brady again, but did see a boost in production.
Interceptions – New England had a couple chances to record big interceptions in the end zone against Trubisky and dropped the ball, most notably Elandon Roberts. But there were also a couple key takeaways. Jonathan Jones had the best pick, taking the ball away from Anthony Miller with one hand as the receiver went up for the would-be big play with his own two paws. Rookie J.C. Jackson also had a nice turnover on a scramble play, making the diving grab.
Pass rush/QB contain – New England had a lot of chances early this season to work on its controlled pass rush and quarterback contain. It didn’t show on Sunday in Chicago as the front lost Trubisky on a number of occasions as he extended plays then made them with his legs. Trubisky rushed six times for 81 yards and a touchdown, including a long run of 39 yards. Adrian Clayborn, Adam Butler and others all contributed to the lack of contain on Trubisky.
Turnovers – The Patriots have been giving the ball away a bit too often this season. That continued in Chicago and almost cost the road team. Patterson coughed the ball up when he ran into the back of a blocking Nicholas Grigsby, a soft and costly turnover that led to a Bears touchdown on just a 24-yard drive. Later, Michel dropped the ball on the same play he went down with the knee injury, leading to a Bears touchdown on just a 36-yard drive. Brady got into the turnover mix as he made a curious decision and flat-footed throw toward fullback James Develin in the flat that was deflected before being hauled in for an interception. The Kyle Fuller pick midway through the fourth-quarter led to another Bears short-field touchdown drive.
Penalties/Sloppiness -- A week after not being called for a penalty, New England was flagged seven times for 64 yards in Chicago, with other penalties being declined. One of the penalties was a curious delay of game call on a kickoff, a pretty rare error. Jackson had his issues in coverage with three flags, including two illegal hands to the face calls and a pass interference. There was also a time when the Patriots had to call timeout thanks to having only 10 players on the field on a third down play in the first half, a timeout New England might have been able to use on a drive on offense later in half.
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