The Bears traded punches with the Patriots Sunday at Soldier Field before eventually falling 38-31. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) As Mitchell Trubisky's development as a passer continues, the second-year pro is emerging as one of the NFL's top scrambling quarterbacks.
Trubisky completed 26 of 50 passes for 333 yards Sunday, but some of his most impressive plays came when he tucked the ball and ran. The second overall pick in the 2017 draft rushed for a career-high and game-high 81 yards and one touchdown with a long run of 39 yards on six carries. "That's a weapon right now for us, him using his legs because there's coverages that defenses cannot run now because he's running the ball," said coach Matt Nagy.
Five of Trubisky's six runs resulted in first downs. On third-and-five from the New England 8 late in the first quarter, he rolled to his right, reversed field to the left and followed offensive linemen Charles Leno Jr. and Cody Whitehair into the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Bears a 10-7 lead.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Trubisky raced through the Patriots defense, darting and dashing for 39 yards before being tackled at the 1. The long run set up Trubisky's 6-yard TD pass to Tarik Cohen, giving the Bears a 24-21 lead. "That was a great one," Nagy said of the run. "I was a little concerned when he got to the sideline that when he decided to cut it back in, sometimes there's that pursuit angle coming from behind, that's the one where you get popped and fumble the ball. But he had a pretty good feel for it."
(2) The Bears played the perennial Super Bowl contenders virtually even on offense and defense, but two special teams touchdowns were the difference.
The Bears held edges over the Patriots in total yards (453-381), first downs (29-21) and offensive touchdowns (4-3). But two TDs on special teams enabled New England to escape with the victory.
First, Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, drawing the Patriots to within 17-14 early in the second quarter after the Bears had gained momentum with 17 unanswered points to take a 17-7 lead. Undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver II had the best chance to make a tackle on the play, but Patterson sidestepped him and easily outran kicker Cody Parkey.
"They had a good scheme," Nagy said. "We had the one missed tackle there. That's big; got to make that tackle. It's a credit to them for making a good play. The kid made a good run. Once you get that kid in open space versus any kicker, he's scoring."
New England's second touchdown on special teams came midway through the third quarter when Dont'a Hightower blocked a Pat O'Donnell punt and Kyle Van Noy returned it 29 yards to give the Patriots a 31-24 lead they would not relinquish.
(3) A Bears defense that had dominated through the first quarter of the season struggled for the second straight game, especially rushing the passer.
After recording a league-leading 18 sacks in the first four games, the Bears defense sacked Tom Brady only once after getting blanked a week earlier against Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins in an overtime loss to Miami. With time to throw, Brady completed 25 of 36 passes for 277 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a 108.2 rating.
"Our guys have got to keep working hard at winning those one-on-one battles," Nagy said. "It doesn't mean you always get a sack or you always tip the ball, but you're affecting the quarterback and you're breaking down that green grass and he sees color when he throws, and that's what we need more of."
The pass rush has suffered since outside linebacker Khalil Mack injured his ankle early in last week's game in Miami. He played Sunday, but dropped into coverage more than he had earlier in the season. Asked if Mack would have rushed the passer more had he been healthy, Nagy said: "There's a possibility of that. You probably would have seen more of [that]."
Prime Photos: Bears vs. Patriots 10.2118
Bears photographer Jacob Funk selected his best photos from the Bears game against the New England Patriots at Soldier Field.