NFL Preview – Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2) (ET)

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

( – Perception meets reality in Foxboro on Sunday.

The Chicago Bears think they’re good and the New England Patriots, who will be
shooting for their 13th straight regular-season home win, know it.

Brandon Marshall’s emotional outburst after last Sunday’s ugly 27-14 home loss
to the Miami Dolphins has placed the focus in Chicago on whether the enigmatic
receiver’s relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler is strained.

What should probably be spotlighted is that the Bears are 3-4 and looking up
at both Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.

Those searching for drama, though, put a lot of emphasis on the fact Marshall
was heard ranting about all the “talent” Chicago has on the offensive side of
the football without mentioning Cutler before adding that the “same mistakes”
regarding protecting the football are holding the team back, perceived as a
direct salvo across Cutler’s bow.

The mouthy Marshall has tried to back off in the ensuing days.

“Listen, I have a really nice condo. And guess what? Jay Cutler built that
condo,” Marshall said on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” on Tuesday. “We’re great,
we’re great. But you know, we’re like brothers. I think coach (Marc) Trestman
said it the best, you know, but if I have a problem with Jay Cutler, I’m gonna
go to Jay Cutler. If Jay Cutler has a problem with me, he’s going to come to
me. We have that type of relationship.”

Marshall has also been trying to have his cake and eat it, too, claiming he
doesn’t regret a word he said to his teammates, but wished that the doors were
closed and the media assembled didn’t here his version of a reality check.

“Oh, absolutely my voice was heard,” the star receiver said. “The only thing I
regret is that the door wasn’t closed, you know, but I wouldn’t change any of
my reaction because it came from my heart, and that’s how I felt, that’s how I
still feel.

“I think that we have all the coaches we need, I think we have all the players
that we need to get that job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have
everything that we need to turn this ship right now.”

Unless Cutler plays defense, though, that really can’t explain how Miami’s
Ryan Tannehill was nearly perfect during the first half in Week 7.

Tannehill completed his first 14 passes and misfired only once in the opening
30 minutes as the Dolphins built a 14-0 lead. He finished the contest 25-of-32
for 277 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions, adding 48 yards
on six carries.

Cutler completed 21-of-34 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an
interception in defeat. Matt Forte totaled 109 yards from scrimmage with a
touchdown catch and a rushing score for the Bears, while Marshall
caught six passes for 48 yards against his former team.

“That’s a very sick locker room right now,” said Bears head coach Marc

New England, meanwhile, has won ugly at times this season but is in its
customary spot atop the AFC East with a 5-2 mark.

In a Week 7 win over the New York Jets, the Patriots possessed the ball
for less than 20 minutes but it was still enough time for Tom Brady to make it

Brady tossed three touchdown passes and Chris Jones blocked Nick Folk’s 58-
yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to help New England
hang on for a 27-25 win over the Jets.

Brady, who has now thrown nine touchdown passes without an interception during
a three-game winning streak, was 20-of-37 for 261 yards for the Pats. He also
moved to 7-0 in his career on Thursdays, tossing 16 touchdowns compared
to just two interceptions in those contests.

“They were 1-5 and they gave us everything we could handle,” he said. “They
played good. Played good on offense and played good on defense when they
needed to. We didn’t play as well as we can and need to get back to work.”

Shane Vereen, filling in for the injured Stevan Ridley, caught five passes for
71 yards and two touchdowns and added 43 yards rushing on 11 carries. Rob
Gronkowski had five receptions for 68 yards in the triumph.

The Patriots have won three consecutive games over Chicago and are 8-3 all-
time versus the Bears.


Part of the Bears’ issues is a weird sense of entitlement coming from a team
which really hasn’t performed all that well on a consistent basis.

“We have too much talent on this team for one, to have the record that we
have, and two, to not be producing the way we should,” Pro Bowl linebacker
Lance Briggs said on his weekly Comcast SportsNet show. “For me, it’s hard to

Should it be?

The Bears were 10-6 in Lovie Smith’s last season as coach in 2012 and fell
back to 8-8 in Trestman’s first try a season ago. In the five seasons before
that, there was one playoff appearance. They rarely beat Aaron Rodgers and
Green Bay and now the Lions have certainly lapped Chicago in the talent

Just maybe the Bears are what they have looked like under Trestman, a mediocre
team which is 11-12 during the coach’s watch.

A major part of that pedestrian reality is Cutler. In a position that almost
demands leadership by its very nature, the 31-year- old veteran has always
been a pass-the-buck guy whose on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions
when things are going bad are always front-page news in the Second City.

Cutler, has won nine of his past 12 starts against AFC foes, is definitely a
guy with prodigious talent, most notably the arm strength to keep the football
dry when throwing it through a car wash, and the athleticism to surprise even
the most athletic of front-seven defenders in this league.

Those positives, however, are often diluted by a shoddy attention to detail,
especially when it comes to the fundamentals and mechanics of playing the

The Patriots, on the other hand, don’t have the horses they once had but
remain relevant because of the stewardship at the top, namely head coach Bill
Belichick and Brady.

The high-octane explosiveness isn’t there any longer with the New England
offense but Brady’s ability to protect the football has helped generate a
plus-nine turnover ratio, a strong contrast from Chicago’s minus-one.

“We’re 5-0 this year when we haven’t turned it over,” Brady said. “We’ve got
to continue to do a good job of taking care of the ball. And that’s throwing
it, not forcing it into coverage. It’s also taking care of it in the pocket.
It’s also when we hand it to the backs, those guys do a great job of
protecting it, receivers in their routes doing a great job of protecting the
ball from the defenders. It’s really a team effort.”

The Pats have improved offensively over the pass three weeks, however, due to
the reemergence of their tight ends. New England got only 188 total yards from
Gronkowski and Co. during their 2-2 start and 391 in three games since.

There was one on-field issue with the Pats this week as star cornerback
Darrelle Revis overslept on Tuesday and was told to stay home by Belichick. No
further discipline is expected, however, and Revis is expected to play with
Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey looming.

Finally, New England acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans
this week to help fill the void created when Jerod Mayo was lost for the
season with a knee injury.

Ayers started 44 of the 50 games he played for the Titans, who selected him in
the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has compiled 254 total tackles with
nine sacks and two interceptions.


This is an opportunity for the Bears to put up or shut up against a New
England team which wins with guile, experience and coaching more than anything

“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but we’re excited for it,” Brady
said. “Hopefully we can go out and try to get to 6-2.”

Chicago is 3-1 on the road this season so getting away from the Windy City is
probably not a bad thing. Another loss, however, and Trestman might be on the
verge of losing a locker room he may have never really had.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Patriots 23, Bears 20