FIVE FACTS ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME
Jay Cutler will have a bounceback game.
Here’s a rather remarkable stat for Jay Cutler. In his season and a half under Marc Trestman, anytime his passer rating in a game has dipped below 90 he has a rebounded well.
- Week 4 of 2013 he delivered a 65.5 against Detroit and followed with 128.1 against New Orleans.
- Week 9 he dropped a 69.8 against Detroit. After injury he returned with a 102.2 against Cleveland.
- Week 15 he joined the Bears humiliation and scored 73.8 on the passer test against the Eagles. He finished the season with a 103.8 against Green Bay.
- Cutler opened 2014 with an 86.2 against Buffalo and followed with a 119.2 against San Francisco.
- He followed his 82.5 against Green Bay this year with a 95.5 against Carolina – the first time under Trestman the sub-90 was not met by a plus-100.
Trust history. Cutler’s passer rating: 109.4
Matt Forte will have more carries than he’s had all season.
New England’s defense is abysmal, especially against the run. When the Jets came into Foxboro last week with a slag heap quarterback on the brink of self-implosion, Belichick’s objective number one had to be stop the run. Result? Jets ran for over 200 yards, including several Chris Ivory carries where Pats defenders seemed to want no part of the bruising back. Marc Trestman should be dialing up the Forte run game until he absolutely has no choice but to abandon it. The secondary effect of dominating the line of scrimmage with the run game is bleeding the clock and keeping Tom Brady on the sideline.
Forte’s line: 26 carries, 145 yards, 2 TDs.
Somebody on the Pats will always be open.
If the Bears don’t generate a consistent pass rush (and there’s no reason to believe they will) Tom Brady will find open receivers. The Pats don’t frighten you down the sidelines with big receiver threats – Brandon LaFell is about their most intimidating presence – but they are chock full of the types of players who will kill the Bears on shallow crosses and seam routes. I would expect a massive game from either Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski…possibly both. The hope is that Edelman can continue his trend of dropping passes.
Julian Edelman’s line: 11 catches, 161 yards, 6 first downs.
Bears will sack Tom Brady 3+ times.
It will lack consistency, as it has all season, but the Bears will land a few blows to Mr. Brady over the course of the afternoon. From a piece in the Boston Herald:
As far as sacks go, the one of Tom Brady in Thursday night’s 27-25 Patriots win over the New York Jets can be categorized as “soft” or “gentle.”
As opposed to some of the jarring, violent sacks Brady’s withstood this season — 14 in total, including 12 in the first five games — the one credited to New York’s David Harris could be attributed to the quarterback himself. In the second quarter, Brady rolled to his right and with no options to throw to or run any farther, he simply slid and was touched down by Harris for the 1-yard loss.
Although Brady took seven hits that game, the type of punishment he endured was a far cry from the pounding he experienced earlier in the season. One glaring example came in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders, when guard Jordan Devey was torched by Justin Tuck and gave up a crushing sack of his quarterback.
Now, despite all the personnel instability on the interior line, there has been steady improvement in that group. Behind the leadership of Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell, the play of Devey and Josh Kline against the Jets, while not perfect, took a step forward. Given the amount of turmoil, that’s about the most one can expect at this point.
It might be Ratliff. It might be Willie Young. It might even the emergence of Lamarr Houston. The knock on Mel Tucker for years has been his defenses don’t sack the quarterback. Bears are currently 8th in NFL with 18 sacks. I expect this developing defensive line to have a few big moments Sunday against this inexperienced group from New England.
Lamarr Houston: Gets over the sack hump.
Belichick will manufacture ways to get to Cutler.
He has no Chandler Jones but still has Rob Ninkovich, one of the most unheralded defenders in the league. He has Dont’a Hightower and Chris Jones, both of which he won’t be afraid send at the quarterback. Pats new additions Alan Branch and Akeem Ayers were brought in to aid the run defense but don’t be surprised if Belichick finds creative uses for them. Pressuring Cutler to abandon mechanics and toss the ball into problematic places is the key to New England’s defensive success. Belichick knows that. He knows all.
New England’s pressure line: Several big sacks on third downs.