This week it’s all about improvement as the Bears finish their east coast trip with the second preseason tune-up against the New England Patriots.
Following last week’s embarrassing 22-0 loss, any sign of fight will be taken as a good thing.
Not that anyone’s worried. It’s just the preseason.
At least fans will see more of the starters than they did last week. Still not a lot but more.
Let’s take a look at the opponent.
New England Patriots
Last year: 12-4, AFC East title, lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
Last time we met: In 2014, wait, I choose to believe that the 2014 Bears season didn’t happen. So when we last saw the Patriots, way back on December 12, 2010 the Patriots creamed the Bears 36-7. All right, that isn’t much better, the actual last time was October 26, 2014 in Foxboro where the Patriots laid a 51-23 smackdown on the beloved. I still choose to believe that 2014 didn’t happen.
All-time the Bears are 3-9 against the Pats in the regular season (But 1-0 in the postseason!).
Last week: A 34-22 win over the Saints. The Patriots scored two defensive touchdowns and rushed for two more in their preseason opener.
Offense: The Patriots rank ninth in the league in total offense after last week’s game and number one in points. Last regular season they were sixth and third, respectively. Tom Brady might play this week just to get a little work in before he goes on suspension otherwise it’s going to be Illinois native Jimmy Garoppolo throwing to familiar face Martellus Bennett. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski will also be in the mix, unless Gronk’s injury that left him absent from practice merits more time off.
Defense: The Pats rank 25th in the league in defense following last week’s game but last season ranked ninth and allowed 19.7 points per game. Gone is Chandler Jones but this group is always going to be top-flight as long as Bill Belichick is roaming the sideline. They still have Rob Ninkovich (injured), Devin McCourty and Jamie Collins, among others. As evidenced by their two defensive TDs in their opener, they are a playmaking bunch.
What to watch for: For the Bears it’s as simple as improvement. Reports indicate that practice has gotten better and sharper and that the Bears have practiced with an edge the last couple days against the Patriots. Keep a close eye on the passing game, which Belichick complimented after practice Tuesday, especially since Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White seemed to be able to take it to the Pats’ CBs.
Also be sure to watch and see if the ground game can get going at all and how the offensive line is coming (or not coming) together.
The Patriots are a deeper, more talented and much more polished team with a veteran staff and systems on both sides of the ball that are well established. Don’t expect wonders but any sign of life should be better than last week’s debacle.
Key stat: The Patriots scored on an interception and a fumble recovery last week as well as intercepting a second pass. It’s up to the Bears offense, which is still gaining its bearings, to keep the mistakes to a minimum.
What will you be watching for Thursday?