Back in 2007, when the New England Patriots went a perfect 16-0 during the regular season, the team's offense was a record-setting machine. The Patriots racked up an insane 75 touchdowns during those 16 games while scoring 589 points, an NFL record. With quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss proving to be a lethal combination, the New England attack was one of the greatest the league has ever seen.
Seven years later and Brady is still under center for the Patriots, along with much of the same offensive system he ran years ago. While the 2014 offense is nowhere near as productive as the 2007 version – this season teams has no wide receiver that resembles Moss in terms of stature or ability – the attack is still a prolific one. Using the quarterback's smarts and strong arm, New England can stretch the field and beat opponents in a wide variety of ways. They've shown that lately after starting the season slowly.
Since losing to Kansas City 41-14 on Sept. 29, the Patriots have scored 107 points in three games.
"I think we are still looking for that consistency (on offense)," coach Bill Belichick said in a Wednesday conference call with Chicago-area reporters. "We've had our moments. But we are still looking for that overall consistency. So I think everybody has improved, each individual has improved. We are doing things better now than we were a month ago."
Brady, at age 37, still is among the league's premier signal callers. He's completing more than 61 percent of his passes on the season, thanks to a good downfield passing attack. Through seven games, Brady has six completions of 40 yards or more after having eight all of last season.
One of his leading receiver, tight end Rob Gronkowski, said Brady has spoken up to get the entire offense on the same page after a slow start to the year.
"Tom is vocal when things are going well and when things aren't going well," Gronkowski said. "He's the leader of our offense for sure. He gets us going and gets us rolling.
"He comes out to practice every week with the same demeanor, and that's to get better. Go out, practice as hard as you can and then go out in the game ready to roll."
Belichick lauded his quarterback's consistency as well, saying that Brady brings the same energy and focus every week, no matter the opponent. It is partially because of that the Patriots have won more than 77 percent of regular season games since Brady took over as the franchise's starter in 2001.
"Tom works really hard and he's very well prepared," Belichick said. "He does a great job of understanding our game plan and a great job of studying the opponents and what they do or what they've done. He's very good, smart and has good instinctiveness about the game."
A major reason that Brady has improved this season as the year has progressed is stronger blocking in front of him. New England traded their top offensive lineman – six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins – in August, and it took the team's line some time to adjust. In the team's first four games, Brady was sacked nine times. Not surprisingly, his quarterback rating was just 79.1 in those contests.
In the last three games, Brady has been sacked only four times and has a rating of 118.1.
"It starts with the offensive linemen," Gronkowski said. "Without them giving us time, or their run blocking, there wouldn't be anything. They're doing a great job and they keep improving every week."
The Bears' best chance of beating Brady would to harass him and rise that sack once again. This season, Brady ranks 18th among qualified quarterbacks on third downs, with a rating of 91.5. If Chicago can stop the run and force long-yardage situations for the New England offense, we will see how close to the big-play 2007 attack this Patriots team really is.