“I think that creates an issue sometimes for the defense, depending on what defense they’re in,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “Certainly when you have a quarterback that has the designed runs with the run-pass off of it, then also doing some things just to have the ability to scramble and make first downs, I think that’s a big piece and it’s hard to defend those guys. We’ve all seen them around the league and Justin did a nice job of executing today.”
While Patriots backup QB Bailey Zappe initially worried the Bear’s defense with back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter, they held New England scoreless in the second half. Interceptions by safety Jaquan Brisker, linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Kyler Gordon along with a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Justin Jones shut down the New England offensive.
“First of all, the one Brisker had was quite excellent,” Eberflus added. “I mean that was a really good play. For him to have that concentration to get his feet in bounds, was excellent. Then really the other two interceptions were tips. There were some tips there, but the one that Gordon had, I think it was maybe tipped twice. He had to tip it to himself there. Then the return, he took it up the sideline and did a nice job with that. But that fosters confidence, the ability to take the ball away. I think that’s a big part of winning football and [Gordon] did a nice job.”
Zappe played all but the first three drives and completed 14 of 22 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson scored the Patriots’ second TD with a 4-yard run.
The Bears went up 3-0 after Santos hit a 42-yard field goal on the team’s first possession. Fields started the drive off by completing two passes for the first downs in a row. The quarterback rolled right on third-and-4 and connected with Darnell Mooney for a 20-yard gain; on the next play, he threw 11 yards to Equanimeous St. Brown.
With 2:11 left in the first quarter, Fields rushed for a 3-yard touchdown on a designed run play, putting the Bears ahead 10-0. On third-and-6, Fields stepped up, escaping the pocket to complete a 19-yard pass to St. Brown.
I agree with Fields; I thought the “designed runs” were solid. “In my opinion, they added a new dimension to our offense. We were able to put that plan into action, and I do believe there were some explosive [plays] in the planned runs.”
On the next drive, Brisker made history by recording his first career interception. He intercepted a Mac Jones pass intended for tight end Jonnu Smith near the sideline at the Chicago 21 and returned it to the 27. The offense, however, was unable to score off of the turnover.
The Patriots brought in Zappe after Brisker’s pick and promptly threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers, cutting the Bears’ lead to 10-7. Zappe directed the 4-play, a 55-yard scoring drive that ultimately resulted in a touchdown. Zappe completed a 20-yard pass to Stevenson on third-and-5 with 8:55 remaining in the first half, setting up a touchdown pass to Meyers in the end zone.
With 6:04 left in the first half, the Patriots took the lead for good when Stevenson scored on a 4-yard touchdown run after the team’s first takeaway. Fields’ pass to Mooney was tipped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Matthew Judon, and cornerback Myles Bryant picked it off. Bryant picked up a pass at the Patriots’ 39 and ran it back to the 50.
In just three plays, the Patriots drove 50 yards, with Zappe completing a 43-yard pass to DeVante Parker at the Patriots’ 7. On the next play, Stevenson received the handoff and raced to the left corner of the end zone, where he was unable to be stopped by the Bears’ defense.
With Fields’ touchdown pass to Herbert from 25 yards out, the Bears took back the lead, 17-14. Again, Fields and Mooney hooked up for a massive gain, this time of 16 yards that got the ball to the Patriots 39-yard line.
The Bears upped their halftime lead to 20-14 after another takeaway set up a field goal from 23 yards out by Santos. On a handoff, Zappe lost control of the ball, and Jones picked it up at the Patriots’ 37. After being sacked twice on the drive, the offense was facing third-and-16, but Fields rolled right and found Mooney for a toe-tapping 17-yard reception on the left sideline.
The Bears’ opening possession of the second half ended with a field goal by Santos from 38 yards out, increasing their lead to 23-14. On third-and-6, Fields carried the ball 9 yards to keep the drive alive, and a 29-yard jet sweep to receiver Dante Pettis advanced the Bears deep into Patriots territory.
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