Patriots Week 8 Recap

Patriots destroy Bears
One look sums up Belichick’s opinion of da Bears

Last week, the Patriots barely survived the New York Jets, blocking a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds to sneak away with a win. This is the same Jets team that was blown away by Buffalo 43 – 23 and saw Geno Smith throw three picks in eight minutes. Smith was benched and back-up vet Mike Vick promptly turned over the ball another three times. How many turnovers did the Jets commit the previous week against the Patriots? Zero.

I called the Pats win over the Jets last week Pyrrhic. Perhaps I was wrong.

This week, New England feasted on Bear, tenderizing the tasty meat to the tune of 51 points. Jay Cutlet, er, Cutler only produced in garbage time, round about the time Brandon Marshall found it acceptable to show up, too. Only Matt Forte looked like he belonged on the field.

Tom Brady was terrific with five TD passes and no picks, giving him 14 passing TDs and 0 picks since the KC debacle. He hooked up with TEs Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright for four scores and Brandon LaFell for another.

Speaking of Gronk, the big man had his best game in years. The Chicago D had to turn to an empty Gatorade bottle to stop him. Seriously. Gronk had to leave the game after suffering from dehydration.

And with all the fretting about Ridley going down, Jonas Gray filled in admirably, rushing for 86 yards on 17 carries. The NFL is littered with former Notre Dame backs these days and Gray may be the most surprising.

The New England D really stepped up its game, too. Despite losing Mayo and Chandler Jones, the rest of the guys pulled it together and played as a unit. Even newcomer Akeem Ayers registered a sack on his second snap. They’ll need a repeat performance next week as the Peyton Manning show comes to town.

It certainly was a great day for football in Foxborough, but the party’s over now. Denver is a real team, with a real quarterback and a stable of stable receivers. And the 2014 version of the Broncos can play some D, too.

For all the happiness and ensuing hype, Patriots fans should exhibit some very cautious optimism heading into week nine.

I know, I know. Peyton Manning is historically underwhelming at Gillette. But the old Manning is far better than the young Manning, and his Denver weapons are far superior to his Indy cache. Even if Browner and Revis shut down Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, what about Wes Welker? Can any of the Patriot linebackers cover Julius Thomas? Plus the Broncos running game actually improved when Montee Ball got hurt.

This could be Welker’s breakout game (like Sanders last week) and Ronnie Hillman could go for 120 and a TD.

The latest incarnation of the O line played amazing against the Bears, but can they hold up against DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller? I doubt Brady will be able to breeze through this game with the same efficiency as the past few weeks. Still, LaFell and Wright are improving by leaps and bounds each week and it’s really opening up the field for the receiving corps to finally get some separation and get open. The running game will have to play even better this week as time of possession is always a factor when playing against Manning. Look for Shane Vereen to be more involved in the screen game.

If the Patriots bring their A game, this could be an epic battle like so many Brady – Manning games of yesterday. But if they slip up at all, it could be curtains early.

With the Buffalo Bills nipping at their heels, the Patriots don’t have the luxury of writing this game off as a tough loss to a great team. They need the win, so let’s hope they play to the gravity of the situation.

On a side note, if anyone spots a mushroom cloud exploding just south of Cincinnati in the late afternoon this coming Sunday, it’s probably just this Pats fan going nuclear. Nothing to see here.

Carry on.

—Ryan Varney