The New England Patriots hit the road to face a Chicago Bears team that still cannot decide whether or not they’re a good team. The Chicago Bears defense has been the talk of the league ever since Jon Gruden failed to retain the league’s top pass rusher in Khalil Mack, but can it stop the stacked Patriots wide receiver corps in week seven?
Patriots Receivers Look to Tame Chicago Bears Defense in Week Seven
Bears Defensive Outlook
The Bears have won three of their first five games, including a blowout win over what looked like a red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense and an early takedown of the perpetually shifty Seattle Seahawks. Their two losses have come at the hands of Aaron Rodgers, as expected, and… Brock Osweiler?
Osweiler slung for a career-high 380 yards and three scores against the Chicago Bears defense that was supposed to be the reincarnation of the Legion of Boom. So much for that.
The Bears are giving up an average of 282.2 passing yards per game, just a first down or so more than the league average. But the Bears have also allowed 11 receiving touchdowns in their first six games, which makes them the ninth-worst scoring defense against receivers. (Let us ignore the fact that the Patriots have allowed 15, making them the second-worst in this category.)
Prince Amukamara, a pivotal part of the Bears secondary, aggravated a hamstring injury against the Dolphins in week five and appeared on Wednesday’s injury report as limited. If Amukamara is not ready for action, Bryce Callahan, who out-snapped Amukamara in week five, will make the start.
Gordon and Edelman Continue to Vie for Top Spot
Josh Gordon led the team in targets against the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s the first time a wide receiver has led the team in targets during the 2018 season. Up until now, James White or Rob Gronkowski have been the most targeted players in the Patriots offense. That bodes well for Gordon’s chances to take over as the top receiver and, potentially, the premier pass-catcher on this team.
Julian Edelman, however, was the better receiver in week six by a small margin. His catch rate, although still not fantastic, was better than Gordon’s, as was his yardage, yards per reception, scoring, etc. It’s hard to see Edelman and Gordon pulling away from this dance against Chicago in any kind of meaningful way.
Bears Pass Rush an Issue
The problem with Chicago is the pass rush. Mack has looked unstoppable this season, with the exception of the game against Miami. He’s a little hobbled coming into week seven, but he’s expected to play. He’ll also be going up against LaAdrian Waddle in protection of Tom Brady if Marcus Cannon does not miraculously get healthy.
Waddle did pretty well against Mack in Mexico City last season, holding him to only two quarterback pressures all game, but Mack and Akiem Hicks are going to force Brady to get the ball out quickly. Edelman is going to have to compete with White for the majority of those quick shots.
Tackling in the Secondary, Not So Much
It’s worth pointing out that in the Bears two losses this season, the defense gave up 75-yard touchdowns, one to Miami receiver Albert Wilson and one to the Green Bay Packers Randall Cobb. On the Cobb touchdown, it was Eddie Jackson that failed to cover Cobb correctly, but the entirety of the Bears secondary looked sluggish chasing after the 28-year-old receiver. Against Miami, it was Callahan that blew the coverage on Wilson in the slot, allowing him to get open. Jackson was the last line of defense to keep Wilson from taking the ball to the house, and he whiffed on the tackle. Neither of these long touchdowns was a huge bomb up the sideline, but rather developed from short passes right on the left hashmark. Edelman, again, benefits from exactly this kind of play.
Hogan and Dorsett, The Forgotten Sons
Chris Hogan appears to have been relegated to his typical role: a couple of looks here and there, a couple of clutch snags, but nothing to make folks think that Hogan is worth his weight in gold again.
Phillip Dorsett was my pick to take over as the top receiver through the first four weeks. The young speedster has all but disappeared from this offense. Gordon’s increased involvement, the return of Edelman and Dorsett’s inconsistent involvement raise my suspicions that Dorsett may not finish the season as a member of the Patriots 53-man roster. However, if he’s going to be used as a trade piece, it ought to be soon before teams forget about his decent play earlier this season.
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