By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots emerged victorious on a weird, wild afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago, hanging on for a 38-31 win over the Bears on Sunday.
Tom Brady finished 25-of-36 passing for 277 yards, three touchdowns, and his seventh interception of the season. He got the whole offense involved, including Josh Gordon's first 100-yard game as a Patriot. James White led the Patriots with eight catches and found the end zone twice.
Here are four quick-hit thoughts on a game filled with ups and downs for both teams.
— Josh Gordon comes up huge. Gordon had his biggest game yet as a Patriot, finishing with four catches for 100 yards. His biggest play in terms of yardage came on a dynamic 55-yard catch-and-run. His biggest play in terms of the magnitude in the game, arguably, was his eye-popping 19-yard catch on a gutsy fourth-and-1 call. That led to the Patriots’ third touchdown of the game, which gave them the lead they’d take to halftime.
Gordon continues to improve on Sundays for the Patriots. With Gronkowski out against the Bears, he came up big-time in a game where they really needed him to be a big-play weapon.
— Special teams make a big difference on a turnover-filled day. The Patriots had another uncharacteristically poor game protecting the football with three turnovers, although one of them unfortunately came as Sony Michel suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Brady threw another interception on a tough throw to a covered James Develin, and Cordarrelle Patterson lost a fumble on a kick return.
But that’s when special teams started to turn the game for the Patriots. Patterson’s 95-yard kick return touchdown made up for his fumble and kept the Bears from pulling away. And Dont’a Hightower’s blocked punt, which led to Kyle Van Noy’s touchdown return, only further swung the game in the Patriots’ favor as the play gave them a seven-point lead late in the third quarter at the time. Also can’t forget that Julian Edelman muffed a punt, but recovered his own muff. In a game where plenty of weird stuff happened, it’s a good thing for the Patriots that the biggest special teams plays went in their favor.
— Patriots defense has up-and-down day. They forced turnovers but struggled with penalties and defending against Trubisky when he took off and ran. The quarterback’s legs didn’t prove to be a big-enough problem for the Patriots, despite 81 yards and a touchdown on just six runs for Trubisky. The important part is that Trubisky didn’t make enough plays with his arm, and also made his biggest mistakes that way. Trubisky finished 26-of-50 for 333 yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions, and both picks came at crucial points in the second half.
The Patriots made Trubisky uncomfortable for much of the game and did a great job covering the Bears’ receivers overall. They limited big plays for all pass-catchers except tight end Trey Burton, the only player who could consistently get open. Rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson epitomized the day for the defense, as he got flagged three times in coverage but also made a big interception in the third quarter with the Bears trying to tie the game. Not a perfect day for the defense, which also allowed a rushing touchdown to Jordan Howard and a touchdown catch to receiving back Tarik Cohen. But they did a good-enough job against Trubisky through the air to get out of Chicago with the W, and if not for the turnovers the game might not have been as close anyway.
— Sony Michel’s injury hangs over the win. Michel got his knee twisted up as he got tackled, and fumbled the football in the process. He looked to be in significant pain as he got helped off the field, ended up being carted to the locker room, and eventually ruled out for the rest of the game with a knee injury. Michel had steadily been making progress as the Patriots’ early down back, but the obvious fear now is he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Best-case scenario is that he suffered a setback with his previously injured knee and will have to work his way back.
Fortunately for the Patriots, Kenjon Barner looked decent after he had to get more snaps at running back. He rushed 10 times for 36 yards. But Michel’s injury is a devastating blow for the rookie, and potentially a major concern for the Patriots moving forward.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.