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Play-action passing game helped make life easier on Jimmy Garoppolo

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Waddle: Garoppolo will be most scrutinized QB in NFL (0:43)

Tom Waddle explains what Jimmy Garoppolo will face replacing Tom Brady in the first four games of the season and breaks down his performance in the preseason. (0:43)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Closing the book on the New England Patriots’ 23-22 win over the Chicago Bears in preseason action on Thursday night by cleaning out the notebook from film review:

1. One of my biggest takeaways was how establishing the run with a level of physicality -- which was an obvious focal point of the coaching staff, with the usage of lead-blocking fullback James Develin and sixth offensive lineman Cameron Fleming -- makes life easier on any quarterback and sets up the play-action game. A three-play sequence in the second quarter (7:33, 7:02, 6:19) captured this, as running back Tyler Gaffney pounded out rushes of 7 and 6 yards before a play-action fake on the third snap resulted in seven Bears defenders being drawn in to play the run as tight end Martellus Bennett worked behind them for a 20-yard catch and run. It’s rare to see that type of separation without play-action. Jimmy Garoppolo’s 25-yard connection with Chris Hogan in the third quarter -- on which Hogan was wide open -- also came on play-action. The big takeaway: As the Patriots consider ways to help Garoppolo in the first four games of the season, play-action could come up big for them.

2. Why do some view Malcolm Butler as a cornerback en route to elite status if he continues on an upward trend? His pass breakup at 4:07 of the first quarter -- in which he ran full speed down the field in coverage, drove his foot into the ground, and exploded to bat away a pass intended for receiver Deonte Thompson on a comeback route -- is one reason why. That’s an impressive athletic play that not many corners in the NFL make.

3. Not the best game for safeties overall, with Patrick Chung having a tough first quarter with a holding penalty to negate a third-down stop and also giving up two receptions. In the fourth quarter, Jordan Richards and Cedric Thompson were the last line of defense on tight end Rob Housler’s breakaway 52-yard catch and run.

4. Three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage (Anthony Johnson, Trey Flowers, Rufus Johnson) reflected a defense that was getting its hands up in the passing lanes.

5. Garoppolo’s first and last passes were probably his worst, as he threw behind Aaron Dobson on third down and then was almost intercepted by linebacker John Timu early in the third quarter near the goal line. Had Timu held on, I wonder how different the postgame media analysis of Garoppolo’s performance would have been. In contrast, the coaching staff seldom grades solely on result and factors in decision-making, and that seemed like a throw Garoppolo shouldn't have made.

6. The first two tackles made on special teams were by 2015 third-round draft choice Geneo Grissom, which is critical for him because he seems to be viewed as more of a special-teams player than a developing edge rusher.

7. James Develin fielding kickoffs at the 2-yard line (2:36, first quarter) isn’t an ideal situation for the Patriots (he was tackled at the 12). Something to consider as the Patriots navigate the new touchback rule and consider which players to ultimately have back deep. Nice work by Bears kicker Robbie Gould executing that kickoff to give the coverage team a chance to make the play well inside the 20.

8. Right guard Josh Kline, who started, appeared to hurt his right shoulder with 12:39 remaining in the second quarter. He played through it, but wasn’t as effective after the play.

9. Veteran defensive tackle Terrance Knighton still seems to be adjusting to the Patriots’ two-gap style of play, in which linemen press their hands into blockers and attempt to control them in the running game. He was too easily turned at times, or played laterally down the line of scrimmage when he was called on to hold his ground.

10. Right tackle Marcus Cannon has quietly put together a nice training camp and preseason. Outside of a false start and a semipressure allowed to athletic Bears first-round draft choice Leonard Floyd, he was especially physical and effective. No lineman might be benefiting more from Dante Scarnecchia’s return as coach after two years away than Cannon.

11. I can already picture Bill Belichick highlighting the complementary football at the end of the second quarter in the next team meeting -- defensive three and out at the Chicago 25, followed by a 16-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones, then the seven-play, 57-yard touchdown drive in the two-minute offense. Want to make Belichick happy? Put all three phases of the game together like that.

12. Running backs coach Ivan Fears had to like what he saw in blitz pickup from James White and Tyler Gaffney. In many ways, that’s all about attitude and willingness to step in there. Both were fearless.

13. The Bears’ late fourth-quarter touchdown should provide a good teaching point for the coaching staff on the plaster technique for defensive backs, in which they turn their back to the quarterback and plaster the player they are covering.

14. Chances are that if a defensive play was made in the fourth quarter, a Roberts was involved, as linebacker Elandon Roberts (2016 sixth round, Houston) and cornerback Darryl Roberts (2015 seventh round, Marshall) were especially active.

15. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was 9-of-13 and, like Garoppolo, he showed improvement from the preseason opener. Brissett initially handed a tough situation -- ball at the Patriots’ 1 earlier in the fourth quarter -- with poise before making one of his few questionable decisions, throwing deep on third-and-3. But overall, it was a nice effort from the third-round pick, as he showed better touch on shorter pass attempts.

Saturday schedule: Players are off.