Patriots beat the elements in 36-7 rout of Bears

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Patriots beat the elements in 36-7 rout of Bears

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

The defense they were facing? The fourth-best in the league when it comes to yards allowed. Upgrade that to third-best when it comes to points allowed.

Then throw in snow, winds of 25-35 mph (with higher gusts) and wind-chill factors in the single digits.

You'd think that, faced with such obstacles, even the best offenses would sputter and stall.

You'd think.

The Patriots, however, made everyone rethink those assumptions Sunday with a sky-is-blue-and-turf-is-fast dismantling of the Bears. They ran up 475 total yards, (including 351 through the air), put together scoring drives of 85, 87 and 81 yards under brutal conditions and built a 33-0 halftime lead before calling off the dogs (at least a little) in the second half. The result was a 36-7 romp that -- coming as it did a) on the road, b) against a first-place team with c) a strong defense -- has people wondering if anyone, anywhere, can stop them.

"The Pats are the best team in the AFC," said Bears linebacker BrianUhrlacher. "They came in here, our field, our weather, and pounded us."

The win put them in the playoffs and it's looking more and more like "anywhere" in the postseason will be One Patriot Place, Foxboro. The Pats are now 11-2 and, thanks to the Jets' loss to Miami, have a two-game lead in the AFC East with three games to play. Thanks to their win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, they also have, in essense, a two-game lead over the 10-3 Steelers in the battle for No. 1 seed in the conference. If they simply hold serve the rest of the way -- and what's happened in the last few weeks to make anyone think they won't? -- the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will run through Gillette Stadium.

If they play as well at Gillette as they did Sunday in the snow and wind of Chicago, odds are they'll be pretty satisfied. Because they'll certainly be successful.

After a three-and-out on the game's first possession, the Patriots began their offensive onslaught the next time they had the ball. They converted a third-and-10 (17-yard pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker) and a third-and-12 (16-yard pass from Brady to Deion Branch) during their 12-play, 85-yard drive that culminated with a seven-yard TD pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski.

Next time they touched the ball, they went 87 yards in 11 plays. They only needed to make one third-down play along the way -- a one-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- and eventually scored when Danny Woodhead ran it from the 3.

A good start began turning into a rout on Chicago's next play, as Johnny Knox fumbled after catching a pass from Jay Cutler. The ball was scooped up by Gary Guyton -- subbing for the suspended Brandon Spikes -- and he went 40 yards for a TD that made it 21-0.

Shayne Graham increased the lead to 27-0 with a pair of field goals, of 30 and 25 yards, before the Pats put an exclamation point on the first half with an 81-yard drive, capped by a 59-yard pass from Brady to Branch for a touchdown that, after Graham shanked the extra point, made it 33-0.

The first-half stats told a story of total dominance. Fifteen New England first downs to two for Chicago. A total of 277 yards to 33. Control of the ball for more than 18 minutes.

It led to a second half of garbage time -- the Pats got one field goal, the Bears (who wound up committing four turnovers) a touchdown -- and New England was able to get some playing time for such previously lost souls as backup quarterback Brian Hoyer and long-injured running back Fred Taylor.

But the glide to the finish line couldn't erase memories of the explosion out of the gate, and now -- with a playoff berth in hand and the top seed in reach -- thoughts can't help but turn to the postseason.

If nothing else, the Pats proved Sunday that their offense can function in January. And beyond.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Jets coach Todd Bowles: 'Garoppolo can play'

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Jets coach Todd Bowles: 'Garoppolo can play'

The Jets don't have to play the Patriots during the first four weeks of the season, but they'll be watching as their division rivals go to work with Jimmy Garoppolo behind center. 

Jets head coach Todd Bowles is expecting more of the same from New England despite Tom Brady's four-game suspension.

"Garoppolo can play," Bowles told the New York Daily News. "They don't worry about who they have. They just have a system in place and they go play football. I think people underestimate that. You still have to knock off the champs. It's theirs until somebody takes it from them."

The Patriots haven't had a quarterback other than Brady take snaps of consequence since Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Garoppolo is still a relative unknown given his 31 total pass attempts over the last two years, but with coach Bill Belichick still on the sidelines, and Belichick's system still in place, Bowles is assuming the Patriots will be a very good team once again -- even without their best player for the first month of the season. 

"They got a good team," Bowles said. "It's not just us. It's everybody. We split 1-1 (against them last year). They're a tough team. They're a tough out. They've had a coach and a quarterback and a system in place for a long time. There's a bunch of ways to skin a cat. They've found pretty good ways to skin it. They do what they have to."

Patriots celebrate 15-year anniversary of 2001 team with videos, Hall exhibit

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Patriots celebrate 15-year anniversary of 2001 team with videos, Hall exhibit

The Patriots have announced a series of initiatives to celebrate the 2001 Super Bowl championship team on the 15th aniversary of their title-winning season.

Throughout the course of the 2016 season, the Patriots will feature special content online and on Patriots All-Access that will lead up to Dec. 4, when Gillette Stadium will host a reunion of the 2001 team during halftime of the Patriots-Rams regular-season matchup. 

The Patriots have already featured images of moments from the 2001 campaign on tickets for their eight regular-season home games. They'll also have a special exhibit dedicated to the 2001 team at The Hall at Patriot Place beginning in the fall. In addition, issues of Patriots Football Weekly this year will include posters of shots from the 2001 season. 

"The Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams was the first championship for our team and will always hold a very special place in our hearts," Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "The victory made everyone that ever wore a Patriots uniform or rooted for the Patriots on the bleachers at Foxboro Stadium feel proud to be a fan. I know I am looking forward to reliving some of those great memories throughout the 2016 season."

The Patriots said that video vignettes focused on the 2001 season will launch this week on Twitter and Facebook as well as on Patriots.com.

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Jerod Mayo looks at the looming quarterback situation for the Patriots and can’t help thinking back to his rookie season.

The former Patriots linebacker who graduated (ahem) to co-hosting “Quick Slants” with me on Monday nights, was asked how drastic the impact of Brady’s four-game suspension will be.

“I still remember 2008, my rookie year, in the first game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom tears his ACL,” said Mayo. “Matt Cassel, at the same point, had zero starts just like Jimmy Garoppolo and we won 11 games. I know we missed the playoffs, but we still won 11 games and that’s something.”

Asked what the message Bill Belichick gave the team in the wake of Brady’s injury and what Mayo anticipates the message being now, Mayo answered, “Honestly, it’s so cliché but it’s that ‘next man up’ mentality and the depth of the team that Bill Belichick builds, you just can’t top it.”

Later in the show, Mayo indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if the team did add a little more quarterback depth in camp. In 2015, the team brought on both Ryan Lindley and Matt Flynn as a cushion behind Brady and Garoppolo.