|12.13.10 at 2:34 pm ET|
The warning shot went out shortly after the game.
Forget the fact that over the last five weeks, the Patriots’ offense has made three of the baddest defenses in the NFL look extraordinarily normal with 39 points against the Steelers, 45 against the Jets and 36 versus the Bears ‘ an average of 40 points against three of the six defenses in the league when it comes to average points allowed.
The statement that should strike fear into the hearts of every defense the Patriots are going to face the rest of the way came from quarterback Tom Brady, who said he believes the New England offense can get better.
‘There’s a long way to go,’ said Brady of the Patriots’ offense, which racked up 475 total net yards against Chicago on Sunday at snowy Soldier Field. ‘I don’t think anything has been accomplished yet. I don’t think we have every problem solved. We don’t sit here and think we have it all figured out. We’re still trying to make improvements.’
Are you hearing this, Green Bay? Better. Better than the last 10 quarters of play, where the Patriots have outscored their opponents, 116-17. Better than the maximum offensive efficiency displayed since the Pittsburgh game: Since the start of that one at Heinz Field last month, the New England offense has had 48 drives and setting aside kneel downs or end-of-game/half situations, has scored on 31 of them, an astounding rate of 65 percent. And better than the 36-7 stomping ‘ that featured 26 first-half points from the Patriots’ offense ‘ that New England put on the Bears Sunday afternoon at snowy Soldier Field.
Even though Brady believes the Patriots offense doesn’t yet have it all figured out, they’ve done a good job fooling the rest of the league. Against the Bears, New England did an excellent job moving the chains, had a near-perfect balance between run and pass (35 runs, 40 pass attempts) piled up nearly 500 yards of offense and didn’t turn the ball over, despite the fact they were playing in near-blizzard conditions.
It’s a miserable combination for both opposing defenses ‘ and offenses.
‘They put a lot of pressure on the opposing offense,’ said Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler of the Patriots’ offense, which has now scored 52 total touchdowns, tied for the second most in team history. ‘If you don’t convert third downs, if you don’t sustain drives, if you have any turnovers, they’re going to take advantage of it. Any little opening they make you pay for it. That’s what really good teams do.’
While you can never say never, it seems unlikely that this team be able to match the team record of 75 touchdowns in a season, set in 2007. That being said, it’s fair to say that at this point in the season, the New England offense is operating at a higher efficiency level than the 2007 team was at the end of that regular season.
‘I’m wondering if defensive coordinators are actually looking at the tape,’ said former Patriots and current NBC analyst Rodney Harrison after on ‘Football Night in America’ after Sunday’s game. ‘You’ve got to play man-to-man. You can’t play zone. I don’t want to give away too many secrets but that’s the way you have to play Tom Brady and the Patriots ‘¦Tom Brady is the best player on the best team.’
Brady finished 27-for-40 for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and was in complete command from start to finish.
‘I wish we would have gotten the ball into the red area a little bit more,’ Brady said. ‘We kicked too many field goals, I thought, but, other than that, it was a pretty good day.”
‘The credit goes to the players,’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who won his 174th career game on Sunday and is now tied for 10th with Mike Holmgren on the all-time list. ‘They executed and did the things we needed to do. They’ve done it before, and they’ve stepped up and did it again today. I’m really proud of the way they performed.’
Here are nine other things we learned on Sunday at Soldier Field:
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|12.13.10 at 12:37 pm ET|
CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Patriots’ 36-7 victory over the Bears on Sunday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“Tom Brady is in a stretch that he’s only duplicated one other time, and that’s obviously during the 2007 undefeated season,” Esiason said. “He’s playing at a level right now, much like he did back then, that very few attain.”
Added Esiason: “When you look at the way that the offensive line is playing, the way all those skill players are playing, and then the competitive nature with which Tom is playing with since that loss in Cleveland, it’s startling. It’s stunning to most people that watch the NFL.”
Esiason said Brady is more intense this year than he was in 2007, and it doesn’t seem to matter who is on the field with him. That said, Esiason gives credit to the overachieving players on the Patriots. “With [Julian] Edelman, with [Danny] Woodhead and with Wes Welker, when they’re on the field together, it looks like an Ivy League football game,” he said. “And for some reason, nobody can tackle these guys.”
Esiason did have one concern regarding the Patriots. “The only criticism that I’m going to levy here at the Patriots is leaving Tom Brady in late in these games,” he said. “And I know he pulled him out yesterday, and I don’t know if it was because [Julius] Peppers was around his ankles or something late in the fourth quarter. I’m telling you, you embarrass people like this and you leave your quarterback out there, he is going to be a target, whether you like to think about it or not, or anybody talks about it. And that would be something that if that ever happened where he would get hurt or something like that in that situation, that would be just a terrible decision on coach Belichick’s part.”
Asked if Belichick needs to be concerned about keeping the team motivated, Esiason said that’s not an issue. “I don’t see one complacent bone in any one of these single players,” he said. “They are on such a roll. I think that they sense that they’re on a roll. There is a real level of professionalism associated with this football team right now.
“The great thing about this, guys, there’s not one single player other than the quarterback that is reaping the benefits of this. Meaning that it’s not like Randy Moss catching three touchdown passes every week. This is being spread around. This is Edelman on special teams. This is Woodhead out of the backfield. This is Brandon Tate making a diving catch in the fourth quarter when it doesn’t mean anything. This is Deion Branch at the end of the first half going against either a busted coverage or somebody slipping and Tom Brady finding him. This is everybody. Everybody has a piece of this. And that’s the beauty of football when it’s being played at its highest level, because everybody should have a piece of it. Because, as we all know, it’s the ultimate team game.”
|12.13.10 at 11:42 am ET|
A day after another impressive performance by the Patriots ‘ this time a 36-7 shellacking of the Bears in snowy Chicago ‘ Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday.
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
I’m sure he will. I’m sure he will. And he should. It was a great win for us, and I think he was very excited after the game, as everyone was, the players. It seems like another team in first place in their division, on the road, in those kind of weather conditions ‘ I think that’s a win we’re all going to remember for a long time.
There’s plenty of plays in that game that kind of skewed the outcome. A play like Gary Guyton‘s interception return the play before half. If we don’t have those two touchdowns, it’s a different game. We made those plays, obviously which were important. You can’t expect to made those plays all the time.
But I think there’s plenty of other plays we should have made. We’re weren’t very good in the red area. I hate to say it, I hate to be Debbie Downer, but we were 2-for-5 in the red area. And I think if we were better in the red area, it could have been much more convincing.
I’m sure there will be critiques, as there always are. And I think that’s what you have to do. You can’t just say, “Man, everything’s perfect.” No, I wouldn’t say that’s the case. I think there’s things we need to do better this week. And here comes another damn good football team to Foxboro [the Packers on Sunday night].
|12.12.10 at 9:32 pm ET|
Tom Brady to Deion Branch for 59 yards and a touchdown to end the first half had more than just a familiar ring to it. Funny how – after Sunday’s 36-7 romp over the Bears – reporters were asking Brady and Branch how this team compared to the Patriots of 2007 and that record-setting offense.
Funny because Branch wasn’t even on that team. “I think they’re some similarities,” Branch began, before remembering, “I wasn’t around. I wish I was.”
He was on the 2004 team and what’s more amusing to Patriots fans is that this 2010 team is looking more and more like that bunch that went 14-2 in winning their second straight Super Bowl.
Remember how that season ended? Brady to Branch 11 times for 133 yards in a 24-21 Super Bowl win over the Eagles in Jacksonville.
Brady continued his incredible late-season run on Sunday at Soldier Field with 369 yards passing and two touchdowns. He has now thrown 268 passes without an interception, the third-best streak in NFL history. How long can Brady keep up this fierce pace?
“You all been saying that the last five or six weeks,” Branch laughed. “This guy, it starts in the classroom and he takes it from there.”
But what makes Brady truly remarkable is his ferocious intensity and drive for perfection. The Patriots were up 14-0 after drives of 85 and 87 yards. Then Gary Guyton returned a fumble 35 yards and it was 21-0. The Patriots got a strip sack of Jay Cutler and short field on a bad punt but could only manage field goals before the hook-up with Branch.
“I thought it was great to get out to a lead today, to play from ahead, that was really important,” Brady said. “We took advantage of some opportunities we got on offense. We also didn’t take advantage of some other opportunities. It was a fun day. We’ll remember that one.
“Some were ones we’ve done quite a bit and some were probably new ones out of the playbook,” Brady said of the play-calling. “I wish we’d gotten the ball into the red area a little bit more. We kicked too many field goals I thought. But other than that, it was a pretty good day.”
A good day if you were a Patriots fan in a warm, dry place to watch the game.
“It was one of those days, one of those days where people would be cozied up next to the fire place drinking hot chocolate but we work on Sundays and all of us are pretty committed to coming out here and playing well, and executing well in pretty tough conditions, and for the most part, I thought we did that,” Brady said.
“We’ve been pretty good in snow over the years for whatever reason. I think because we practice in it, to tell you the truth. We don’t go in our bubble (field house) very often. If it’s windy out there, we practice out there. If it’s snowy, we practice in the snow. If it’s raining, we practice in the rain.”
Brady was underwhelmed with the news the Patriots clinched a playoff berth with the win. His goal are just a little bit higher.
“There’s a long way to go I don’t think anything’s been accomplished yet. We don’t sit here and think we’ve got it all figured out.”
For Brady, that feeling won’t come until February.
|12.12.10 at 9:07 pm ET|
PATRIOTS CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT FOR 12TH TIME IN KRAFT’S 17 YEARS OF OWNERSHIP
New England has now qualified for the playoffs 18 times in its 51-year history. The Patriots have earned 12 playoff berths in the 17 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, a dramatic contrast to the six total playoff berths that the team earned in its first 34 years of existence. New England has won 12 division crowns and has qualified as a wild card team on four occasions (1998, 1994, 1985 and 1976). The Patriots also qualified for the playoffs in 1982 as part of a 16-team tournament following a players’ strike.
THE PATRIOTS ARE GOOD IN THE SNOW
The Patriots played the Bears under snowy conditions and improved to a 10-0 record under head coach Bill Belichick when playing in the snow. In the last three games played in the snow, the Patriots have outscored their opponents 142-14.
GRONKOWSKI SCORES SEVENTH TOUCHDOWN OF THE SEASON
Patriots rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski caught his seventh touchdown reception of the season on a 7-yard pass from QB Tom Brady in the first quarter. Gronkowski is chasing down WR Jim Colclough and WR Randy Vataha for the Patriots rookie receiving touchdown record of nine touchdowns. Gronkowski ranks in the top five for total touchdowns among all Patriots rookies. He ranks third in NFL history for touchdowns by a rookie tight end.
PATRIOTS EXTEND STREAK TO FIVE GAMES WITH 30 POINTS AND NO TURNOVERS
The Patriots have scored at least 30 points without committing a turnover in each of their past five games to extend their NFL record. Last week they became the first team to have at least 30 points without committing a turnover in four straight games.
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|12.12.10 at 8:33 pm ET|
Last week, during a 45-3 win over the Jets, people wondered why Tom Brady was in the game during the fourth quarter of a romp. He explained that he wanted to play a ‘complete’ 60-minute game. On Sunday, with a 27-0 lead as time was winding down in the first half, it appeared the Patriots would be happy to take that four-touchdown lead to the locker room. Most quarterbacks would. But not Tom Brady.
And thanks to Brady, the play that put the final nail in the Bears’ coffin was pulled off perfectly. But it nearly didn’t happened.
Deion Branch caught a 59-yard ‘hitch and go’ route from Brady down the left sideline as time expired in the first half. But Branch said there was “a lot of yelling” on the Patriots sideline with one coach yelling out for Brady to take a knee with a 27-0 lead.
“At one point, the coach was telling us to take a knee [laughter] and I’m looking at Tom like, ‘take a knee,’ and he was like, ”No.’ He called a route and I was like, ‘Alright, good. That’s a good route.’ I’m thankful to have him,” said Branch, who felt the TD made up for the 71-yard punt return for a TD by Julian Edelman that was called back because of holding by rookie Dane Fletcher.
“But if you think about it they took the punt return away from Julian, which was a big minus,” Branch added. “That guy’s been working real hard. But I think we capitalized on what they were giving us on defense. We took a shot at it and it worked. I wasn’t looking at the defender in the back half but my job was to get past Charles Tillman and let Tom and the front line do the rest and they did it.”
So the next time anyone wants to accuse Bill Belichick of running up the score, they may want to ask Tom Brady first.
|12.12.10 at 7:08 pm ET|
The Patriots moved to an NFL-best 11-2 on the 2010 season with a 36-7 (and it wasn’t even that close) annihilation of the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday. The lousy conditions did nothing to slow down an offense that is in 2007 mode (or better?) right now, and the defense limited the Bears to just 185 yards of offense and picked off Jay Cutler two times. Here’s a look at what went right (and wrong) for the Pats in their fifth straight win:
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
Tom Brady: Considering the conditions and the reputation of the Chicago defense, how good were these first-half (really the only part of the game that mattered) numbers: 13-21, 195 yards, two TDs and a 124.1 passer rating. That’s the kind of stuff you’d expect in a September home game vs. the Cardinals. It’s just too easy right now for Brady, who led the Patriots on three scoring drives of at least 80 yards in the first half and finished the game with 369 yards passing. Since the Steelers game Brady has 15 touchdown passes and zero interceptions and hasn’t had a passer rating lower than 117.4.
Deion Branch: A remarkable story continues, as Branch sets a career high with 151 receiving yards. Would you call this a decent return on for a fourth-round pick? As Cris Carter continues on his inevitable (and speedy) slide to irrelevance (and Randy Moss weeps in a Nashville hotel room), Branch keeps on making plays for the Patriots. He put the finishing touches on a nearly perfect first half, abusing Major Wright (playing the role of Alphonso Smith) and hauling in a 59-yard TD pass from Brady to give the Pats a 33-0 lead. A huge day for the starting wideouts as Wes Welker was a force in the first half, catching six passes for 85 yards (finishing with eight for 115), including a pair of third-down conversions on the opening drive.
Devin McCourty: Is there any question that McCourty is having a Pro Bowl season? The rookie made plays on third down to stop the Bears on each of the first two drives — first blowing past Greg Olsen to tackle Matt Forte on a third-and-one for a two yard loss and then breaking up a pass for Earl Bennett on third-and-seven. Then he forced the fumble on Johnny Knox that Gary Guyton returned for a touchdown. Phil Simms pointed it out and we’ve said it time and again this season — where would this secondary be without McCourty?
Offensive Line: Whether it was Logan Mankins running over Brian Urlacher to open a huge hole for BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the Patriots first TD drive, or Matt Light getting out for a block on a Welker catch in the first quarter, or Sebastian Vollmer (on the very next play) pancaking a Bears defender for Green-Ellis or Dan Connolly leading the way for Danny Woodhead’s TD rush, the offensive line was flat-out dominant on Sunday. Brady was sacked once but rarely pressured as he had plenty of time (particularly on the third-and-long conversions) to make plays.
Gary Guyton: A fumble recovery, TD and an interception for Guyton on Sunday. That’s right, Guyton has more TDs over the last two weeks than the New York Jets.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
McCourty Injury: McCourty did not play in the second half as he was sidelined with a rib injury. Obviously no idea as to the extent of the injury — maybe he plays if the game isn’t a rout – but if this turns out to be something serious it could be a killer injury for a thin secondary.
Dane Fletcher: Thanks to Brady and Branch it turned out to not cost the Patriots points, but a Fletcher holding penalty negated a 71-yard punt return TD from Julian Edelman (who had a terrific game returning punts, easily the biggest impact he’s made all season) at the end of the second quarter.
Shayne Graham: Actually he did a nice job on Sunday, making all three field-goal attempts, but he did miss an extra point. That’s his second missed extra-point since joining the Pats.
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