Rapid Reaction: Patriots 36, Bears 7

CHICAGO -- No sense devoting too much wordplay to this stinker.

It became abundantly clear very quickly the home-team Chicago Bears were more affected by the inclement weather conditions than the visiting New England Patriots, who rode Tom Brady’s arm to a 36-7 smackdown at Soldier Field.

Chicago’s embarrassing loss brings back the question that has hung over the club all season: Are the Bears the real deal?

They definitely didn’t look the part against the Patriots.

What it means: The Bears squandered an opportunity to pad their lead atop the NFC North by falling to the Patriots. Earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers -- already a game behind the Bears in the division -- lost 7-3 to the Detroit Lions. Further complicating matters for Green Bay was the concussion quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered in the first half that casts doubt about his availability for the Packers' matchup next week at New England.

So had the Bears taken care of business Sunday against New England, they’d be two games up against a Packers team that could very well be on the way to yet another loss next week on the road against what appears to be the best team in the league.

Snow what? That’s probably what the Patriots say to the notion of inclement weather at Soldier Field affecting their offense. The Patriots racked up 273 yards in the first half, converting on 67 percent of third downs.

The team with home-field advantage, meanwhile, managed just 33 yards of offense in the first half as quarterback Jay Cutler succumbed to two sacks and finished with a passer rating of 58.3. The area the Bears hoped to lean on most -- the rushing attack -- produced just 19 yards in the first half, led by Matt Forte, who averaged 1.9 yards per carry. The club’s longest run in the first two quarters was a 7-yard scramble by Cutler.

Brady lights up Cover 2: Chicago made no secret of its plan to stay in Cover 2 and test Brady’s patience by forcing him to make short passes. Brady did that and more in the first half, lighting up the Bears' Cover 2 defense for 195 yards in the first half with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 124.1.

Brady displayed patience against Chicago’s Cover 2 in taking New England on 12- and 11-play scoring drives to start the game. Then, when the Bears started to take more chances in coverage, the quarterback and his receivers took advantage. On the final play of the second quarter, Brady hit Deion Branch -- who beat Bears corner Charles Tillman on the route -- for a 59-yard touchdown as time expired.

In the first half alone, the Patriots lined up in six different personnel packages on offense, in addition to no-huddle. The Bears seemed to have no answer, and by the end of the third quarter, two New England receivers -- Branch and Wes Welker -- had each racked up more than 100 yards on a combined 15 catches.

Record-setting first half: Chicago’s performance in the first half Sunday will go in the team's record books, just not the way it would like. The Bears allowed the most first-half points in franchise history, surrendering 33 through the first two quarters, shattering the old mark of 31 points scored on the club by the Detroit Lions on Sept. 18, 2005.

What’s next: Minnesota is next up on the schedule, but there’s uncertainty concerning whether the Bears will be able to play the Vikings at the Metrodome next Monday night because the facility’s inflatable roof caved in under the weight of heavy snows in the area.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission -- which operates the Metrodome -- reportedly said that extent of the damage was still being assessed. But Steve Maki, the facilities manager, told the Associated Press he is optimistic the roof can be repaired in time for the Monday night matchup.