It was like sitting inside a snow globe. So what if it was a Jetsons meet the Flintstones called Soldier Field, it was still a sight to see. The scene was set for a showdown of first place teams but only one team showed up and it wasn’t the home team. The New England Patriots came into Soldier Field and snow-blowed the Bears 36-7. If you want to relive the painful memories, you can check out the highlights from NFL.com here.
The Bears closest competition in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers had just fallen to the lowly Detroit Lions, providing an opportunity for the Bears to go up two full games in the NFC North with three to go. Maybe that was the worst thing that could have happened? Maybe the notion that they had a little breathing room in the division instilled a sense of complacency. Maybe it was a team that thought they could sleepwalk through another half of football.
The Bears played the first half as if they had never seen snow and didn’t know how to deal with the elements. Before they knew what hit them, they were down 33-0 at halftime. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense exposed the Cover-2 defense while Mike Martz’s offense was never known as the Greatest Show on Skis for a reason. Let’s start with Brady vs the Cover-2 after the jump. The Bears defense has been the biggest key to the team’s success in 2010. People have speculated which player has had the biggest impact – Julius Peppers or the return of a healthy Brian Urlacher. Given Sunday’s result, you might say neither. As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, the Cover-2 works when the front four defensive linemen can generate pressure. On the bad Soldier Field track, there was no pressure coming at Tom Brady, so he had all day to sit back and pick apart the Bears’ secondary. To a seasoned quarterback with the accuracy of Tom Brady, that much time to pick apart the zone coverage just isn’t fair.
Brady was able to get mismatches all over the field. It seemed he could just go out and play catch with Wes Welker whenever he wanted to. I will single out DJ Moore specifically as having a horrible game, but he’s hardly alone. There were breakdowns throughout the Bears’ secondary but the most egregious was the Deion Branch TD reception with just seconds to go in the first half.
With the Patriots comfortably ahead 27-0 and just 1:38 left in the half, one would think the Pats would be content to just run out the clock and go into a locker room with a comfortable lead. Maybe I’ve just too many Ron Turner-led offenses is my day because Brady and the Pats marched it down the field for a last second TD. With 9 seconds left, Brady heaved a bomb down the near sideline for a 59-yard touchdown. It looked to me like Peanut Tillman already had his mind on halftime rather than playing until the final whistle.
My defensive player of the game has to go to Brian Urlacher. He was all over the field once again, registering 11 tackles, 3 passes defensed and a couple of tackles for loss. He came to play.
On the other side of the ball, there’s not much to say. The Bears’ offense just felt like they were ill-prepared to play in these conditions. We’ve known all along that Mike Martz’s offense relies on precision cuts and perfect timing. Well, when you’re playing in the RCA Dome circa 1999, that’s great. On the snow-covered Soldier Field, the offense is pretty useless. On a day like Sunday, the Bears needed to run the ball but couldn’t get it going. The weaknesses of the offensive line was clear. They couldn’t get any push up front and allowed the Patriots to push them around. On a day when they needed to run between the tackles, the Bears couldn’t.
Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots was supposed to be a statement game for the Bears, trying to earn the respect of the national media. With a win, the Bears would legitimize their surprising record and cement their status as playoff contenders. After the 36-7 loss, it appears the Bears will keep the pretenders status a bit longer.