The Chicago Bears went into Foxboro Monday night as heavy underdogs with hardly a single expert predicting they’d upset the Patriots in the house that Bill Belichick (and Tom Brady) built.
And yet, still fuming about the game they gave away to the Washington Commanders just 11 days prior, the Bears took control of this game early and finished strong, walking away with a resounding, 33-14 victory.
While still not resembling an explosive offense, they sure did look like a “good” one in racking up 390 total yards — 243 on the ground — and stifling the Patriots’ duo of quarterbacks for most of the evening.
The Bears used their mini-bye week to make some improvements to their offense. Along with some reshuffling on the offensive line, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy also called a lot of designed runs for quarterback Justin Fields, something the city has been screaming for all season.
The result: Fields ran the ball 14 times for 82 yards and a touchdown and was a headache for Belichick’s defense. Fields also got on the move in the passing game as well. But when remaining in the pocket, he did a great job going through his progressions and finding the open receiver.
Although he only had 179 passing yards, Fields did complete about 62% of his passes and averaged 8.5 yards per attempt. He had a touchdown and an interception — a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage.
As an offense the Bears scored on 7 of 11 possessions. They held the ball for 37 minutes and doubled the amount of first downs that the Patriots had.
David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert both had 62 yards of rushing, proving that their 1-2 punch continues to be one of the better ones in the league.
There weren’t a lot of standout performances in the receiving game considering there were only 13 completions. But Darnell Mooney had 3 catches for 53 yards, Equanimeous St. Brown tallied four catches for 48 yards, and Cole Kmet finished with 2 grabs for 32 yards, including a great one down the sideline on 3rd and 7 that kept the chains moving.
Defensively, the Bears absolutely ate up everything that Mac Jones threw at them early in the game. Jones completed just 3-of-6 passes for 13 yards and had 3 scrambles for 24 yards. Under Jones’ leadership, the Patriots had two-straight 3-and-outs to open the game and then Jones lofted a pass that was picked off by Jaquan Brisker — an awesome, one-handed snag that he corralled near the sideline — before the Patriots yanked him for backup Bailey Zappe.
Now, as I tweeted several times during the game, I don’t get the fascination that Patriots fans have with Zappe. He’s a bad quarterback who has had some moderate success the past few weeks. But if you judged him by the sound of the ovation that Patriots fans give him, you’d think he was the second coming of Brady.
As most quarterback changes can do, it energized the Patriots and Zappe threw a few nice balls down the field. He led them to two-straight touchdown drives and a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter.
But, alas, that’s all the “Zappe magic” that would be seen for the night. The Bears responded to the Patriots’ second touchdown with one of their own, reclaiming a 17-14 lead. A Zappe fumble on the ensuing possession gave the Bears a short field with which to work. Seven players later, the Bears kicked a field goal to take a 20-14 lead into halftime.
One of the biggest criticisms levied against the Bears offense this season is how poorly they’ve started games. They’ve had plenty of second half resurgences, but they could never come out of the gates strong.
That changed Monday night against the Patriots, as the 20-point first half indicated. But for as pleased as I was to see the narrative change, I was just hoping they wouldn’t come out flat in the second half.
No need for me to worry. They squashed that concern right away.
The Bears opened the second half with a 10-play, 56-yard field goal drive. After a Patriots 3-and-out, the Bears offense had another 10-play, 46-yard field goal drive, extending their lead to 12. And after yet another Patriots 3-and-out, Fields engineered an 8-play, 39-yard touchdown drive that cemented the outcome of the game early in the fourth quarter.
The great Bailey Zappe was then picked off on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter by Roquan Smith and Kyler Gordon as the Bears weren’t content to just coast to the victory.
As fans of a rebuilding, empty-cupboard, 2-4 team, Monday night’s victory to extend their record to 3-4 was about all any of us could ask for out of the Bears.
They played a complete game from start to finish, only letting up momentarily when Zappe Fever took over. They were physical, well-disciplined, efficient, and finished more drives than not with points.
Can the Bears extend this momentum into their next game, a road contest with a very good Dallas Cowboys team? Now that this new offensive game plan has been put on tape for a strong Cowboys defense to study, can Fields and Getsy replicate it? That’s the million-dollar question for which we’ll be seeking answers.