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Patriots 38, Bears 31: 10 quick thoughts from strange win on road

Ryan Hannable
October 21, 2018 - 4:23 pm
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It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but the Patriots found a way to get it done.

New England had two special teams touchdowns — a kick return for Cordarrelle Patterson and then a blocked punt returned for a touchdown from Kyle Van Noy after Dont'a Hightower blocked the kick — in the 38-31 win on the road over the Bears. It was their fourth straight win. 

The Bears' Hail Mary attempt on the final play was caught, but Kevin White was stopped short a half-yard from the end zone.

It was a very sloppy game with numerous penalties and turnovers, but the Patriots were still able to come away with a win, which is all that matters.

Here are 10 quick observations from the game.

1. Defense and special teams were the story in this one. The Patriots defense had two interceptions of Mitchell Trubisky and then had two special teams touchdowns in the win. Patterson's kick return for a touchdown came in the first half, which came after he fumbled one earlier in the game. Jonathan Jones had his pick come early in the fourth quarter on a tremendous catch, and it was also a big play as the Bears were moving the ball at the time.

2. The turnovers bailed the defense out, as overall it really didn’t have too great of a day. The biggest issue was containing Trubisky in the running game as the Bears quarterback finished with 81 rushing yards. These were the second-most allowed to a quarterback in the Bill Belichick era. At times, especially in the first half, he made the Patriots defense look silly. With that being said, the Bears quarterback was pretty unimpressive following all the hype he received coming in, as he struggled with his accuracy.

3. With the way the defense and special teams played, Tom Brady didn’t really need to do much. It was a standard performance for the 41-year-old as he finished 25-for-36 with 277 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The interception wasn't a bad decision, as it was in James Develin's hands, but was dropped and fell right into the hands of a defender. 

4. Rookie running back Sony Michel had his first NFL fumble in the first half and it came with a cost as well. He was tackled awkwardly and had his left knee bend in a strange way. The Georgia product needed assistance walking off the field, was carted to the locker room and then was ruled out just before the start of the second half. It would appear this is a long-term injury and if that is the case the team may need to seek outside help at the position. Rex Burkhead, currently on IR, cannot return until Week 13.

5. James White did a nice job filling in for Michel, especially at the end of the game. Normally, he's more of a pass-catching back, but he did what he needed to do following Michel leaving the game. The Wisconsin product had 40 yards on the ground, while Kenjon Barner added 36. White also had eight catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns.

6. Although Bears linebacker Khalil Mack was active, he didn’t make much of an impact at all. Mack came in with an ankle injury and didn’t even come close to disrupting any plays. In fact, on a good majority of plays he backed up into coverage. It’s unclear if this was scheme-related, or related to his injury, but nonetheless it was strange.

7. With Rob Gronkowski missing the game, many wondered who would make up for his production, and it was a combination of Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan. Gordon led the way with four catches for 100 yards. Hogan had a season-high six catches for 63 yards and then Julian Edelman had five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Gordon's 55-yard catch was one of the bigger ones of the game as it set up White's second touchdown of the game.

8. Although J.C. Jackson had an interception, he was also a major liability in coverage. The undrafted rookie had three penalties and got beat on a few plays as well. He saw extensive playing time over Jason McCourty, but with the way he played Sunday, it won’t last very long. Also in the secondary, Eric Rowe re-injured his groin.

9. New England continued to struggle with covering opposing tight ends, which has been a trend for the last three or so weeks. Trey Burton finished with nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't just one player in coverage, either. This was a defense-wide issue.

10. Gronkowski missed the game as he didn’t make the trip due to a back injury that flared up at the end of the week. It’s being reported he’s expected to play next week in Buffalo on Monday Night Football, so that would say it isn’t a major concern, but any time “back” is associated with Gronkowski it’s not good news.

The blocked punt returned for a touchdown was the first time the Patriots did that since Tedy Bruschi in 1996.

Related: Sony Michel carted off with knee injury vs. Bears

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