Through the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots scored at least one touchdown in the second half of each game. But Monday night, the Bears defense shut out New England in the final two quarters, holding the Patriots to their lowest point total since scoring just seven points in Week 1.
While quarterback Bailey Zappe and the Patriots generated an explosive second quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives, the Bears adjusted and forced three-and-outs for a total of four net yards on New England's two third-quarter drives.
The Patriots never reached Bears territory in the second half as both of their fourth-quarter possessions ended in interceptions in their own territory.
Following the Monday night win, the Bears rank third in the NFL in second-half scoring defense, allowing an average of 5.0 points. Coach Matt Eberflus attributes the defense's late-game resiliency to the players' and coaches' continued work between the offseason and now.
"When you work at something and you say something over and over again, it's just words until you actually put it into action and the action starts with work," Eberflus said. "So the ability to work in practice, in training camp, all the way leading you up to this, where we are right now, puts you in a position to have that mental and physical stamina to be able to focus in the second half. And that's an important part of what we are building here and it's always going to be that way. But again, it comes down to execution—knowing what to do, know how to do it and then make sure you're executing in those critical moments, third down, red zone, in the second half of games because that's when these games come down to."
Designed run plays add explosives
Quarterback Justin Fields executed several designed run plays against the Patriots, taking one in for a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter. While Fields has previously highlighted his ability to scramble and escape pressure, he said the QB keepers "brought a whole different element to our offense."
Fields led the Bears' rushing attack in New England, recording 82 of their total 243 yards on the ground and carrying the ball 14 times. Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters in the postgame press conference the design runs "weren't a total surprise," but the defense "didn't do a great job defending it."
While the Bears were successful in adding a new layer to the offense by incorporating Fields' dual-threat talent into the gameplan, Eberflus said the team will be smart about when they use the designed run plays. The coach's priority is keeping his QB healthy, but acknowledged Fields has "very good instincts that way, so we trust him."
"I think once you put it on tape, the guys have to defend it," Eberflus said. "Then you want to be creative in the ways that you do things, and you want to do it in a safe way because it is your quarterback. You want to make sure that you're doing it the right way. He has to know when to do things the right way in terms of when to slide, when to get out of bounds and all those things. Then he has the unscripted plays where on third down, he drops back and will take off for a first down, or even on first down to do that. I think it's very hard to defend. I've tried to defend those guys over the years, and it's very difficult. We just have to do it the right way – and we've got to be creative with how we do it. So we're gonna do that. We're working on the gameplan right now, so we're excited about getting that going."
Schofield slides in to starting role
Guard Michael Schofield III's whirlwind experience with the Bears in the last few months led to his first start in a Chicago uniform Monday night. Schofield, a Chicago native, signed with the Bears July 25 but was released Aug. 30 as part of final roster cuts. The Bears then brought the veteran lineman back following Week 1.
Schofield, an eight-year veteran, has now appeared in 104 games with 82 starts in the NFL. He stepped in at left guard in the Oct. 13 game against Washington after Lucas Patrick briefly left with an injury, then earned the start against the Patriots as Patrick shifted to center.
"It was good," Eberflus said of Schofield's play Monday. "I thought he was solid. He was solid in there for his first time back. Again, he's played a lot of snaps so it's not his first time he's been playing obviously. He's a true pro. He works at it diligently and a very smart guy. 'C-Mo' (offensive line coach Chris Morgan) does a great job with all those guys and working to their strengths and trying to minimize what they do. So he's doing a good job."
Check out the best images—taken by Bears photographers—from Monday night's 33-14 victory over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Eberflus, Belichick meet postgame
Before the teams left the field after the Monday night game, Eberflus and Belichick shared a moment in which the longtime Patriots coach gave praise to the Bears.
"It was obviously a private conversation, but I can just generalize and say that he was complimentary of the way we're doing things and what we're building here," Eberflus said. "That was what the whole conversation was, and it was just complimentary of how we're doing things."
In his postgame press conference, Belichick expressed his team was "badly outcoached, outplayed" and said the Bears "totally controlled the game in all three phases."