After an unforgettable 43-40 win against the Chiefs on Sunday Night, the Patriots are taking their talent to Chicago to battle the Bears. The Patriots are coming off of a game where they had no turnovers or penalties, which is the first time in NFL history that a team has done that. As perfect as the team played as a whole, the defense was once again a major problem in the second half. Against the hottest offense in the league, the defense took there usual “bend but don’t break” approach and it seemed to be working as they only allowed 9 points in the first half. However once Mahomes settled down and found his rhythm the game turned into a back and forth shootout.
The offense once again showed it’s arsenal of weapons on Sunday Night. Led by the rookie running back Sony Michel’s impressive stretch of games, the Patriots are averaging 39 points per game over the last 3 weeks. The offense will be put to the test on Sunday as Chicago’s defense is ranked 3rd in the NFL in total defense and 1st against the run. The Patriot’s defense will also be challenged with having to stop a speedy, explosive offense designed around their two stud running backs. Let’s take a look at what the Bears have to offer on both sides of the ball:
The Bears offense is a group loaded with young talent. Led by second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears are continuing to come together on offense as the weeks go by. Trubisky, who was the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has been showing major improvements in his second year. Last season Trubisky was last in the league in yards per game with 183 yards, but now he currently ranks 22nd with 236 yards per game. In 12 games last year, he threw for 2,193 yards, 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. So far through his 2018 campaign Trubisky is on pace to shatter his rookie numbers as he has 1,261 yards, 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also has 164 yards and one touchdown rushing as well, which proves his ability to make plays with his feet. Trubisky is a young, talented quarterback with above average mobility. Getting after Trubisky early and often will be one of the keys to stopping the Bears offensive attack.
At running back, the Bears have one of the best duo’s in the NFL with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Howard had a breakout year last year as he ranked 6th in the NFL in total yards with 1,122 and 9 touchdowns. The 9 touchdowns was tied for 3rd in the NFL last year, so it’s obvious that Howard is one of the top backs in the league when playing. So far this season, Howard has been struggling which has thrusted speed back Tarik Cohen into the main role. Cohen is electric out of the backfield, as last year he caught 53 passes for 535 yards and one touchdown. With Jordan Howards size and power combined with Tarik Cohens speed and play making ability, the Bears backfield is one that can rip defenses apart.
At wide receiver, the Bears made moves this offseason to acquire Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Robinson signed a 3-year, $42 million contract in the offseason after 4 years in Jacksonville. Robinson is without a doubt the team’s best wideout. He is an excellent route-runner who had a Pro Bowl season in 2015. Last year, his season was cut short after he tore his ACL in Week 1. When 100%, he offers Trubisky an explosive option who knows how to use his big frame and size to create a mismatch against smaller cornerbacks.
The Bears also added wide receiver Taylor Gabriel this past offseason after signing him to a 4-year, $26 million contract. Gabriel spent his first four season as a member of the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. He stands at 5’8″ and weighs 165 pounds which is traditional slot receiver size, but he has proven in his career he can be used a little bit of everywhere. Gabriel has racked up 27 receptions so far year, which is only 9 catches away from tying his career high. Gabriels deadly speed provides the Bears offense with “big play” ability as his speed can slice up a defense.
At tight end, the Bears added another weapon in free agency in Trey Burton. Burton spent his first 4 years of his career as a member of the Eagles before signing his 4-year, $32 million contract with the Bears. During his time with Eagles, Burton was the backup to pro bowler Zach Ertz, so his numbers aren’t staggering. Throughout his career in Philadelphia he only caught 63 passes for 629 yards and six touchdowns, but the young tight end has a bright future and fits extremely well in first year coach Matt Nagy’s system.
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If there is name to remember on the offensive line, guard Kyle Long is the best bet. Long was selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and it is safe to say that he has panned out pretty well so far. Long has been a member of the Bears since 2013 and has been to 3 pro bowls. Longs experience and leadership paves the way for the young offensive line for the Bears. The Bears have given up 12 sacks this season, which is tied for 15th in the NFL. Overall, the Bears offensive line is average so it will be interesting to see how much pressure the Patriots send on Sunday.
When thinking of the Bears defense, the first name that come to the mind of most is Khalil Mack. Chicago added Mack prior to the regular season after sending a 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, and 2019 sixth-round pick to the Raiders in exchange for Khalil Mack, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2020 fifth-round pick. Mack then signed a massive 6-year, $141 million contract that keeps him in Chicago for the next several seasons. In his first game in a Raiders uniform, Mack proved he’s worth the two first-round picks after he had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a sack, 3 total tackles, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Mack can take over a game by himself as he is one of the best defensive players in the league. However, Mack has been battling an ankle injury and has missed practice all week, so his status for Sunday is still up in the air.
The defensive line for the Bears is a strong part of their defense. The Bears currently rank 3rd in the NFL in total defense, and majority of the credit can go to the defensive line. Former Patriots defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has clogged up the middle of the line for the last three seasons. Hicks has a massive frame and size and makes it extremely difficult to run up the middle. The defensive ends for the Bears are Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard. Entering his 4th year with the Bears, he only has 9.5 career sacks but with Khalil Mack now on the team his matchups aren’t as challenging. Bullard has only started in 4 out of his 30 career games, but after former Bears defensive end Matt Unrein left in free agency Bullard should have much more playing time.
At linebacker, the Bears deploy Khalil Mack, Raquan Smith, and Danny Trevathan. Khalil Mack’s game changing ability is well documented, as he is having an extremely impressive season thus far. Smith was drafted 8th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and has been improving week by week. In his final year at Georgia, Smith led the SEC in solo tackles and total tackles as Smith has the speed to go sideline to sideline to make plays. He stands at 6’1 which is a bit undersized compared to an average NFL linebacker but his speed and play making ability makeup for it. Trevathan is an experienced player in the league having played since 2012. He joined Chicago in 2016 and has held down the MLB spot ever since. Trevathan was named NFL Defensive Player of the Week in week 2 after he totaled 2 sacks, eight tackles, and a forced fumble. This star powered line backing core has the ability to control a game and wreak havoc on an opposing offense.
The secondary for Chicago is led by cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and safety Adrian Amos Jr. Fuller has been a member of Chicago’s defense since 2014 and has 10 career interceptions. He is coming off of an impressive game last week as he had 2 interceptions and 7 combined tackles in Chicago’s overtime loss in Miami. On the opposite side of the field of Fuller stands cornerback Prince Amukamara. Amukamara played for the Giants and Jaguars before joining the Bears last season. He only has 8 career interceptions but does have 61 pass deflections, which shows that he knows how to play the ball effectively when covering receivers. Amos Jr was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He made the NFL All-Rookie Team in his first season and led the league in interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2017 with 3. Amos Jr is a great play making safety that lurks all over the field.
Sunday’s matchup for New England’s offense will be a test as it’s looking like Rob Gronkowski will be inactive. It will be key for the Patriots to contain running back Tarik Cohen and get after quarterback Mitch Trubisky to mess up his timing. Khalil Mack remains questionable for sunday with an ankle injury, and if he is inactive it should be a much easier day for back up tackle LaAdrian Waddle as he fills in for Marcus Cannon while he deals with a concussion. It will be interesting to see how effective rookie running back Sony Michel will be against a top tier defensive line.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr