New England is again in top form.
Led by a sparkling performance by quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots sprinted away to a 51-23 victory against the visiting Bears on Sunday in Foxborough. The victory was the Patriots’ fourth in a row and kept them one game ahead of Buffalo (5-3) in the AFC East.
Brady was nearly perfect, completing 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no picks. Amazingly, Brady’s top three targets — tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright and wide receiver Brandon LaFell — caught 27-of-27 passes thrown their way for 334 yards and five TDs. Gronkowski was especially dominant, catching nine passes for 149 yards and three scores.
The Bears, meanwhile, looked like a team in free fall. The defense had no answers for Brady. The offense’s best work was largely cosmetic after the outcome had long been settled. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw three TD passes but also committed two turnovers.
The Bears were down a manageable 17-7 late in the second quarter, but then, in the span of 57 game seconds, the wheels came off. A Gronkowski two-yard TD put New England up 24-7 with 1:52 in the half. Then, the Patriots’ defense got a stop, and the Bears surrendered a 42-yard punt return to Julian Edelman and were hit for a holding penalty, giving New England the ball on the Chicago 9. On the next play, Brady found LaFell for a score to give New England a 31-7 lead with 1:07 left.
At this point, the Bears were, at best, on the ropes. And then, New England delivered the knockout. On the Bears’ first offensive snap after LaFell’s TD, Cutler fumbled under pressure, and Rob Ninkovich took it in for six with 55 seconds left in the half.
Matters would get even worse for Chicago in the second half, with starting left guard Matt Slauson suffering a pectoral injury and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston suffering a potential leg injury celebrating a sack with Chicago trailing 48-23.
The defeat drops Chicago (3-5) to three games behind Detroit in the NFC North.