The visiting Patriots gave the Bears a lesson in overcoming the elements in a 36-7 whipping that improved their record to 11-2.
Fortunately for the 9-4 Bears, they maintained their one-game lead in the NFC North because the Lions upset the Packers in Detroit, dropping them to 8-5.
Bottom line, the Bears can still clinch the NFC North title next week with a victory on the road – presumably, though the Metrodome is considered unplayable at the moment and the Vikings play a "home" game in Detroit tonight – over the Vikings and a Packers loss to the Patriots in New England.
It remains to be seen if the Bears can bounce back from being thoroughly dominated at home. The Patriots held a 475-185 advantage in total yards, a commanding 39:41-20:19 time-of-possession advantage and a 351-158 edge in passing yards.
The home team found itself on the wrong end of the largest halftime deficit in franchise history when it went to the locker room trailing 33-0.
"They dominated us in all three phases," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You have to play your best ball every snap, and we did too many things wrong. You can't do that against good football teams."
The Bears' inability to compete with the Patriots, arguably the NFL's best team, will again raise the question of whether they are playoff contenders or pretenders.
"It's like when you're getting a whuppin' when you're little," cornerback D.J. Moore said. "You cry, but then your mom talks to you and you learn from it."
The Bears learned that, at least on this particular day, they could not compete with the Patriots.
"They were that much better than us today," safety Chris Harris said. "But it's just one game in a 16-game schedule, so it's just one loss."
The Bears didn't do anything well, especially in the first half, in which they were outgained in total yardage 273-33. The Patriots had 15 first downs. The Bears had two. The Patriots had 193 passing yards. The Bears had 14.
"It's going to be a setback for us," quarterback Jay Cutler said after posting a season-low 32.9 passer rating in the Bears' most lopsided loss since last year's 45-10 setback vs. the Bengals at Cincinnati. "We've got to take a look at it and learn from it. But, at the same time, we've got to get ready for the next hurdle. We've got to get ready for a tough road game against a divisional opponent."
After what promises to be an uncomfortable film session this morning, the Bears will immediately try to put this game in the rear-view mirror.
"There's always a 24-hour rule," defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. "Win or lose, you put it behind you. It's just like a boxer. Sometimes you're going to get knocked out. But you have to get back up and keep fighting, and that's what we're going to do."
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