New England Patriots running back James White (28) celebrates with quarterback Tom Brady (12) after scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
Even with Rob Gronkowski injured and absent, it takes a complete effort to defeat the New England Patriots.
The Chicago Bears could not accomplish that as their defense leaked in a second straight game, Tom Brady controlled play and the Patriots scored two touchdowns on special teams for a 38-31 victory at Soldier Field.
"Any time you score when you're not on offense, it feels pretty good," Brady said.
The Patriots' Kyle Van Noy broke a 24-24 tie in the third quarter by scooping up a punt blocked by Dont'a Hightower and rolling 29 yards into the end zone. The Bears never seriously challenged New England's edge after that until Kevin White caught a Hail Mary pass on the 2-yard line, but was stopped a yard short on the game's final play.
"Even before that bomb/Hail Mary type of situation, it's a tough loss and we didn't play the way we wanted to play," Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
In the first half, Cordarrelle Patterson turned around the game with a 95-yard kickoff return for a TD after the Bears went ahead 17-7.
"Kind of an unusual game with a lot of big plays," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said.
Brady threw his third TD pass of the game, a 2-yarder to James White with 8:40 left, putting the Bears in catch-up mode.
Mitchell Trubisky threw an 11-yard TD pass to Trey Burton to shave the deficit to 38-31, and finished 26-for-50 with 333 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. He completed the 54-yard Hail Mary against the wind to Kevin White, but it fell short, leaving the Bears tied for last with Detroit in the NFC North.
"Close doesn't cut it," Trubisky said. "There is a standard here.
"Coming up one yard short and not tying the game and going to overtime, that's not good enough anymore."
Trubisky was wild at times early, and forced one pass in the end zone that should have been intercepted. He made up for his mistakes with a career-high 81 rushing yards, including a wild cross-field 8-yard touchdown scramble that actually covered about 50 yards.
"He made good decisions," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. "There was a couple passes where he was the first to come off and say, 'Shoot, I shouldn't have made that throw, right?' And so that I liked because he's knowing that."
With a hobbled Khalil Mack, the Bears' defense did what it had done against Miami in losing the previous game, and failed to apply much pressure to Brady. He threw for touchdowns of nine yards to Julian Edelman and five yards to White, and hit Josh Gordon for a key 55-yard gain to set up the final White touchdown catch. Brady was 25-for-36 for 277 yards with one interception.
"I think it just comes down to knowing that if you are going against a good team, your room for error is slim," said Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose interception triggered a late Bears scoring drive. "So you have to be on point the whole game."
The Bears moved Mack from the left side to the right side and held off rushing him much after the ankle injury suffered against Miami. He had virtually no impact, making one tackle.
Their only sack came from Roquan Smith blitzing up the middle, when Brady fell.
"You've got to be able to switch it up when you play a team like that and I think that's what the game plan was going in and we did that," Hicks said. "But obviously we didn't do it enough to have it turn out in our favor."
The Patriots picked them apart even with Gronkowski at home with a back injury, but had to wait out the final pass to get the win.
"You hold your breath," Brady said.
The Patriots appear in command of the AFC East at 5-2. Two tough losses in a row have the Bears reeling heading into a matchup Sunday against the Jets.
"I don't think that we're down in spirits, though because I do know that we have a great feeling of what kind of team we're striving to be," Hicks said. "I don't feel there's a downturn in confidence or motivation to be better.
"But it's a tough loss and you've got to let it hurt for a little bit."