It was a day of redemption Sunday as the Pats earned their first road win with contributions throughout the roster. The Pats started strong with a great opening drive that was well-balanced between the run and the pass. Then the Pats looked like they did in their two previous road losses - falling behind 17-7. But the Pats showed mental toughness to come from behind on the road with Rob Gronkowski inactive and Sony Michel lost to injury in the first half.
"It was a big win on the road today. I thought we played competitively in the kicking game. Certainly getting 14 points in the kicking game was big for us. The Bears are tough. They present a lot of problems and definitely put ourselves in the hole and they took advantage of it and we were able to fight our way back. Given all that happened to be ahead at the half, but that didn't last long, either. Kind of an unusual game with a lot of big plays," Bill Belichick said.
Of all places that fighting spirit came from Cordarrelle Patterson who fumbled a kickoff that led to a Bears touchdown. Patterson might have been benched if the Pats had another kick returner given how much Bill Belichick hates fumbles. Instead with the Pats trailing 17-7, Patterson showed why the Pats traded for him in the first place when he returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 17-14. Patterson had another strong kick return late in the fourth quarter to the 40 that gave the Pats strong field position. The Pats scored another touchdown before the end of the first half to take a halftime lead 21-17.
The defense looked liked they might blow it again when they gave up a long Mitchell Trubisky run that led to a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half that made it 24-21. But with the score tied at 24, Dont'a Hightower blocked a punt that Kyle Van Noy picked up and returned for a touchdown.
"We practice and preach it, so it's pretty cool, when you come out here and execute it, a big game like this on the road. We definitely needed it and it was perfect timing," Hightower said.
Earlier in the year, it was fair to question whether Hightower would recover from the injury that sidelined him for most of last year. It was a play the Pats needed from their defensive leader at a critical time. The Bears sauntered onto the field afterwards with the thinking it is hard enough to stop Tom Brady - now we give up a blocked punt for a touchdown. That score made it 31-24. It was also nice to see Van Noy make a play given the criticism he has taken from local talk radio.
It is also great to see a secondary that has struggled for much of the season - have two interceptions. J.C. Jackson, who committed three penalties, had an interception in the second half as did Jonathan Jones. Jackson is the third player the Pats have tried at the second corner position. First, it was Eric Rowe, then Jason McCourty (who played mostly in dime packages Sunday) and now Jackson who is an undrafted rookie that offers higher upside then Jason McCourty -- a 10-year veteran.
Offensively, Chris Hogan continued his redemption tour that started last week with a 42-yard catch against Kansas City. and continued Sunday when he had six catches for 63 yards. The Pats wanted to exploit the Bears middle linebackers of Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Julian Edelman started the game strong with five catches for 36 yards, but disappeared in the second half with no catches. Chris Hogan had only catch for three yards in the first half, but made his presence on the Pats first drive of the second half. Josh Gordon continued his comeback with four catches for 100 yards and a 55-yard catch where Gordon admitted he ran out of gas and was tackled at the one yard line. Two plays later, the Pats took a 38-24 lead on a James White 2-yard touchdown catch - his second touchdown catch of the game. Tom Brady did not have an explanation for the distribution of passes among receivers.
"You just don't know when your number is going to get called," Brady said.
The Pats led 38-24 in the second half and the inconsistent defense made it interesting when they allowed another Bears touchdown to make it 38-31. The Bears got the ball back again with under a minute remaining and a Trubisky hail-mary fell one-yard short when Duron Harmon tackled Bears WR Kevin White at the one yard line.
"I was just doing my job," Harmon said. "My job is to be the leader of the defense, not to jump and make sure the ball does not get tipped behind me."
The formula for the Pats this year to win is simple. Offense plays great and hope the defense/special teams can make enough plays to preserve the lead. That's what happened Sunday.
"For us to get a win on the road is something we have been talking about and something we need to do," Brady said. "We are going to have keep getting better every week. I'd take building on the wins rather than losing games. To be 5-2 after starting 1-2 is a great place to be."