It was only a matter of time before the top ranked Patriots offense would be forced to play in conditions that make most teams in the league cringe.
Blistering through Soldier Field were winds gusting at 53 miles per hour, a heavy blanket of unrelenting snow and a temperature that barely peaked at 26 degrees. What may seem like harsh conditions set the stage for the tenth victory for the Patriots in snowy weather.
Soldier Field is notorious for its rough field conditions and in the winter, Mother Nature does not improve the situation. The Chicago Bears were looking to capitalize on these elements but fell short, very short.
The 11-2 Patriots earned a playoff spot for the eighth time in the last 10 years with the 36-7 victory over the Bears who are now 9-4 and still are in first place in the NFC North.
Brady and the Offense Make Statement
Last week, Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher called out to skeptics that his team was simply the best team. Period.
After the game though, it was the opposing team that Urlacher was praising. "The Patriots are the best team in the AFC," Urlacher explained. "They came in here, our field, our weather, and pounded us."
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense continued to eclipse their opponents through the air and on the ground. Brady completed 27 of 40 passes for 369 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. As the discussion continues regarding the strength of Brady’s candidacy for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, his performance in the last few games have made quite the statement.
Urlacher seems to agree that Brady is at his best, "He is the best QB in the NFL. We knew it coming in and this game just confirmed it."
Balance has been the key in the Patriots ability to be successful. As Brady discussed on WEEI radio, “The thing that is great this year is we’re much more balanced. We’re running the ball very well.” On the running attack, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been the surprising top back for the Patriots and had 21 carries for 87 yards against the Bears. Something to keep in mind is that Green-Ellis has been extremely effective having not had a single fumble in his entire football career, including college.
Weather was a major factor on Sunday’s game and the Patriots didn’t focus any attention on it. Brady explained that, “Coach (Belichick) always stresses the opponent that we're playing is the Chicago Bears - not the weather, not the refs, not the crowd.” It was comforting to know that the Patriots were 9-0 in inclement snowy conditions
Wide receiver Deion Branch had one of his most effective games with eight receptions for 151 yards for one touchdown. A huge play was in the second quarter when Brady launched a 59 yard pass down the field to Branch forcing a 33-0 deficit at the half.
Brady defended his receiver after some choice words by Cris Carter about Branch being ‘too regular’ against top defenders,
“Deion has been a Super Bowl MVP.” Brady noted, “Deion has showed up in every game he’s ever played in. He shows up at practice every day.”
Tom Brady makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage (AP Photo)
Defense Continue to Put Up Points
The Patriots defense is not highly ranked among the others in the league but yet they have manged to keep the last three opponents to an average of just 11.3 points.
Rookie Devin McCourty suffered a rib injury in the second quarter and is a major concern for the Patriots budding defense. McCourty currently leads the Patriots for interceptions with six total.
Brandon Spikes, the rookie linebacker from Florida was slapped with a four game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. For the duration of Spikes’ suspension, Gary Guyton steps in to fill the void and managed an interception against the Bears. Brandon Meriweather also recorded an interception in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots defense has seven non-offensive touchdowns already this season. These key turnovers have been paved the way for dominance on the offensive front while preventing any momentum by even some of the best offenses in the league.
Eric Moore, the newly acquired defensive end from the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, made a splash in his first appearance in a Patriots uniform. Moore was impressive with four solo tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack. It was Moore’s forced fumble that contributed to one of three field goals made by kicker Shayne Graham.
Looking Forward: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers were considered to be Super Bowl contenders at the beginning of the 2010 season. Unfortunately, as with most teams in the league, the Packers are facing the strains of injuries as the regular season draws to an end.
During the past week’s 7-3 loss to the meager Detroit Lions, the Packers lost their starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a concussion, defensive end Cullen Jenkins to a pulled muscle, left guard Daryn Colledge and outside linebacker Frank Zombo to knee injuries.
Aaron Rodgers’ concussion could be one of the factors that could decide Green Bay’s chances in the playoffs. Rogers’ back up is Matt Flynn who took over during the second quarter finished the game against the Lions completing 15 of 26 passes for 177 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Flynn is in no way a suitable replacement for Rodgers, who led the seventh ranked offense in passing yards.
The most notable match up in this game is bound to be the Patriots’ top ranked offensive scoring unit (31.9 points) versus the Packers’ defense who is ranked first in points allowed (14.5 points). Leading the defense for the Packers is second year outside linebacker Clay Matthews who has been dubbed the best pass rusher in the league with 51 tackles and 12.5 sacks.
Overall, the Patriots must continue to use their offensive flexibility to pick apart the third ranked passing defense. As the Patriots running game was able to be productive against the Bears’ effective rush defense. Tom Brady will continue to dominate the passing game as the status of rookie Devin McCourty’s rib injury will have a big impact on the defensive front. The Patriots must take full advantage of Rodgers not leading a possibly dominant Packers offense.
The New England Patriots are set to face the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Sunday, December 19, 2010.
Kick off is set for 8:20 p.m est.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check back for regular updates by Kisha
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