FOXBORO, Mass. – The Bears knew that Tom Brady was going to throw the ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski Sunday. But they couldn't stop the two from combining to torch their defense.
Gronkowski caught nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns from Brady before exiting in the third quarter of the Patriots' lopsided 51-23 victory due to dehydration.
"Obviously they have a good rapport," said safety Ryan Mundy. "Tom Brady knows how to get him the ball; put it in a good location where he can catch it. [Gronkowski] knows how to use his body and they did that today."
Gronkowski beat Mundy for touchdowns of 6 and 46 yards and linebacker Shea McClellin for a 2-yard score. On the two short throws, Mundy and McClellin were draped all over the tight end.
"Tom made meticulous throws," said coach Marc Trestman. "He was on target even when [Gronkowski] was covered, so you have to give them credit. We had some very tight coverage on him, some hip-to-hip coverage, and the ball was thrown perfectly."
On the ground: Kyle Long rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries, his second 100-yard game of the season.
"We wanted to run the ball," said quarterback Jay Cutler. "We felt like we could run the ball. He ran really hard. It's just hard whenever they're scoring at that clip to keep running the ball, keep play-action and keep your offense intact what you planned on."
Forte also caught six passes for 54 yards and now has 58 receptions this season, the most by a running back through eight games in NFL history.
Catch this: Tight end Martellus Bennett made one of the best catches of the season late in the third quarter when he hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cutler.
Interfered with by cornerback Brandon Browner in the end zone, Bennett reached up as he was being brought down to the ground and caught the ball while prone on his back.
"That was just a play on his part," Cutler said. "Brandon was kind of riding him the whole way and he made a heck of a grab. Martellus played from the first minute to the last minute."
Bennett caught six passes for 95 yards in the game.
Roster news: Bears who were inactive due to injuries included linebackers Lance Briggs (ribs) and Jonathan Bostic (back), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) and safety Danny McCray (knee).
Players who exited with injuries included cornerback Kyle Fuller, who aggravated his hip pointer and was replaced by Al Louis-Jean; linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, who appeared to injure his knee after celebrating his first sack of the season.
One-liners: The Bears have been outscored 71-7 in the first half of their last two games against the Patriots (33-0 in 2010 and 38-7 Sunday). … New England is now 41-3 at home since 2009 and has won 13 straight, the longest active streak in the NFL. … The 25 passing first downs the Patriots compiled Sunday were the most ever by a Bears opponent. … The 31 points the Bears allowed in the second quarter tied a team record for that period that was set in their only loss in 1985 when the Dolphins compiled 31 in a 38-24 Monday night victory in Miami.