The Bears' success with their four-man pass rush this season was one of several reasons I thought they would at least be competitive in this game. In their first 12 games, the Bears had limited opposing quarterbacks to a 68.8 passer rating when sending four or fewer pass rushers. Sunday, however, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady put forth a 123.2 passer rating in those situations, accounting for 301 of his 369 yards and both of his touchdown passes. It was the highest passer rating the Bears had allowed against their four-man rush in 18 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Another reason I thought the Bears had a chance was quarterback Jay Cutler's recent success in the short passing game. He entered the game with the NFL's second-best passer rating on passes that traveled 10 or less yards in the air, a trend that kept the Bears offense moving while minimizing the chances of forcing a pass or making a big mistake. But on Sunday, Cutler completed less than half of his short passes and threw both of his interceptions for a 17.5 passer rating in those situations. I guess the Patriots watch film, huh?
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is now 10-0 in games played in significant snow. I realize the Patriots play outdoors in a northern climate, but was anyone else surprised at how much more comfortable they appeared in Sunday's snow? I don't really know how to quantify it. But it just seemed like Patriots players were taking surer steps and had much better body language standing on the sideline. One instance in particular stood out. Prior to Shayne Graham's 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, you saw five or six Patriots players clearing snow for the hold in a pretty choreographed way. It was the kind of scene that made you think the Patriots actually practice clearing snow for kickers during games. Sometimes it's just the little things.
And here is one issue I don't get:
Today is not a day to praise the Bears. But at the same time, I wonder if referring to them as "frauds," as many of you are, isn't a bit harsh. What was your realistic expectation of this team before Sunday's game? They're only frauds in the sense that they shouldn't be considered among the elite teams in the entire NFL. The Patriots are arguably the NFL's best team and definitely the hottest. But the Bears long ago proved they were good enough to be contenders for the division title, and at this point they have relatively smooth sailing to an NFC North title. A win next week over the Minnesota Vikings, combined with a Green Bay Packers loss to the Patriots, would do it. Let's try to restrain your glee here.