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If the 45-3 drubbing of the New York Jets two Monday nights ago wasn’t enough to convince you that the Patriots are the top dawgs in the NFL this year, then maybe Sunday’s 36-7 snowblowing of the Chicago Bears will kill off all remaining doubts.
The lopsided victory at Soldier Field improved New England’s league-best record to 11-2, and helped them become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. It was the team’s fifth game in a row scoring 30 or more points, and it was the sixth game in a row that Tom Brady threw for at least two TDs and no interceptions, tying a league record held by the now late Don Meredith. In New England’s last ten quarters, dating back to the second half of the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions, the Pats have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 116-17.
Again this week, there are plenty of Pats whose performance was well-deserving of one of the “PATS on the Back” acknowledgements, but instead of taking the easy way out like I did last week when I just gave everyone a shout-out, I have come up with three of my clear-cut favorites from Sunday’s win in the Windy City.
As if there was any doubt at 27-0, Branch’s 59-yard touchdown catch-and-run ended the first half and gave the Patriots a 33-0 halftime lead, the worst halftime deficit in Chicago’s long franchise history. Branch led the way Sunday with a career-high 151 receiving yards on eight catches, the most grabs he’s seen since his first game back with New England in Week 6 against Baltimore. With three games left to play, Branch could reach the 1,000-yard mark this season, which would have been completely unheard of before the season began. He needs just 240 yards to do it… my money’s on him hitting it with ease.
New England’s other diminutive receiver had quite a game for himself Sunday also, as W2 also had eight catches on the day, for 115 yards. It was the first time since last season’s snow-covered game against Tennessee that the Pats had two 100-yard receivers. It was Welker’s first 100-yard game of the season, and helped him get back on track towards also eclipsing the 1,000-yards receiving plateau, now just 213 yards short. The passing game has so many weapons now, with Branch and Welker at full force, to go along with the two rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski… how does an opposing defense stand a chance???
Quite the day for Gary Guyton. The linebacker first scooped up a fumble forced by Devin McCourty, and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. It was Guyton’s second TD of the season, making him the first Patriot defensive player to score twice in a season since Tedy Bruschi in 2003. He didn’t stop there though, intercepting a Jay Cutler pass in the third quarter for his second career pick. It’s been an up-and-down career so far for Guyton through almost three years with the Patriots, but seeing some playmaking, ball-hawking ability from the young linebacker is definitely a great sight to behold.