Patriots Bears Preview

Pats must stop Khalil Mack and Bears Pass Rush

INSIDE SLANT: The Pats are facing the Chicago Bears Sunday. At last, there is a 1 pm game for Pats fans. Sunday is the only 1 pm game in a five week stretch. The Chicago Bears are typical of most NFL teams. Some weeks they are good - other weeks they are not so good. Not exactly a game one wants to bet on. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is inconsistent, but the Pats defense is the only defense so far to make Blake Bortles look good. So what gives on Sunday is anybody's guess. The Pats are also looking for their first road win of the season. They looked bad in two road losses to Jacksonville and Detroit way back in September when they didn't have Josh Gordon or Julian Edelman. Bill Belichick dismissed the idea Wednesday that the Pats face a greater challenge than other teams because teams treat games against the Pats as their Super Bowl.

"I don’t really worry about the other teams. I worry about our team. I want to try to get our team ready to go on Sunday. That’s what our goal is this week. I’m sure the Bears will be ready to go. I’m sure they’ll play well. We expect them to play their best game. They probably will, and so that’s what we’re getting ready for," Bill Belichick said.

SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting, Pats lead series 9-3 . Tom Brady is 4-0 against the Chicago Bears including two wins in Chicago. Brady's most memorable moment against the Bears occurred in 2006 when he evaded Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. Brady joked afterwards that he could tell his grandchildren that he evaded Urlacher. The Bears beat the Pats in the 1986 Super Bowl 46-10. If any Pats fan under 30 can name five players on that team without google they deserve a medal. The last time these two teams met Brady’s Pats blew out the Bears 51-23 in Foxboro. It was an ugly day for the Bears.

NOTES, QUOTES:

The play of Duron Harmon needs to improve. Harmon took a bad angle on the Tyreek Hill touchdown that tied the game at 40 Sunday Night. Belichick tried to boost the confidence of his defensive backs Wednesday.

“I think all our defensive backs – you know, it’s a good group. Those guys study hard. They study individually who they’re matched up against, but they have to study together so that we can make the proper adjustments and anticipate things and know how we’re going to handle situations at a time, especially a team like this that uses motion, multiple formations, multiple groupings, as well as formations. So, they have the same formation but different guys could be there in those same spots, and that changes things. So, just having that work together, it’s important, as is the individual study of your particular matchup,” Belichick said Wednesday.

Phillip Dorsett: Dorsett had no catches against Kansas City. With only five offensive skill players allowed on the field at one time - Dorsett could be the odd man out at times. The Pats don’t want to take Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, James White off the field on passing downs. That leaves one spot for Dorsett or Chris Hogan.

BY THE NUMBERS:

227 - The number of wins by Tom Brady - the all-time leader.

1 - The number of interceptions from Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty this season. The Pats need better play out of their free safeties.

0 - the number of sacks by the Pats defense against the Chiefs. One way for the defense to improve is to have a pass rush.

173 - the number of rushing yards by the Pats against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Pats running game is strong at the moment.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: Marcus Cannon: Cannon suffered a concussion Sunday Night and did not practice Wednesday. LaAdrian Waddle will replace Cannon if he is unable to play. Waddle replaced Cannon Sunday Night. Waddle and Cannon are likely even as pass blockers with the edge to Cannon on run blocking.

Chris Hogan: Hogan redeemed himself last week with a big 42-yard catch in the second half. With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, James White and Josh Gordon, Hogan will receive some single coverage and the Pats need him to take advantage of those opportunities.

James White: With five catches for 53 yards, James White now has 37 catches on the season for 323 yards. White, though, is a perfectionist. “We can always do better. We still feel like we left some plays on the table against the Chiefs.” White could catch 100 passes this season.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dont’a Hightower’s performance has been improving and his performance against the Kansas City Chiefs was the best of the season. He had a great interception that led to a Pats touchdown. The Pats are thin at linebacker with only Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and John Simon capable of playing the position at the moment. After Hightower, the Pats are extremely weak at the position.

GAME PLAN: Offensively, the strategy is to stop the Bears really good pass rushers in Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks who played for the Pats in 2015. The Bears two best players in the secondary are Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos - both play makers who could slow down the Pats offense. The players are interchangeable - something Belichick acknowledged Wednesday.

Defensively, it is hard to predict what to expect from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky who is inconsistent. But Trubisky has two good weapons to throw to in Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson. Stephon Gilmore can take away Robinson. While the Pats will hope and pray their secondary can limit the speedster Gabriel so he does not beat them for three touchdowns like Tyreek Hill did last week. The Pats also must play good run defense with the versatility of Bears running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Hill.

QUOTES ON GAME: Bill Belichick on comparing Lawrence Taylor (who he coached as defensive coordinator with the New York Giants) to Khalil Mack. Worth noting that Pats Maven asked the question - not expecting to see any credit from the Worldwide Leader.

“Now, wait a minute. We’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. Yeah, I’m not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s class. So, you can put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor,” Bill Belichick said.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: RT LaAdrian Waddle v. OLB Khalil Mack (Mack is the type of player who could cause havoc and prevent Tom Brady from finding the open receiver).

WR Julian Edelman v. CB Kyle Fuller (The Pats will need a big day from their receiver who has played well since coming back from suspension in Week 5).

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