The Bears will be finishing up a tough three-game road trip that started off with back-to-back matchups at the Meadowlands. After pummeling the Giants 38-20 in Week 10 and shutting out the Jets 10-0 in Week 11, the Monsters of the Midway might be facing their biggest test of the season. Although the Patriots have curiously struggled at home this year, including two straight losses to the Colts and Jets.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has little left to prove on his Hall of Fame resume. A three-time Super Bowl winner, only Joe Gibbs, Chuck Noll, and Bill Walsh have equaled that feat. And as long as he has golden boy quarterback Tom Brady as his signal-caller, he'll have a shot to win a fourth.
When asked what he has seen so far from the Bears on defense, Belichick was quite liberal with his praise.
"They're pretty good," Belichick said on Wednesday. "They do everything. They do everything well. I don't really see any weaknesses at all. They pretty much set the whole standard for the whole league."
Belichick didn't highlight any particular aspect of the Chicago D that he finds so daunting, but he did his best to hit everything.
"They don't give up any points," he said. "They turn the ball over a lot. They score a bunch of points. They're outstanding on third down. They're so much better than anybody else. There's nobody else to really compare them with. Good against the run, got a lot of team speed, rush the passer, intercept passes, cause fumbles – I think they do about everything they can do very well. Outstanding."
The Patriots organization has chosen to rip up their natural playing surface and replace it with artificial field turf. The move was overdue considering how bad the conditions were against the Colts and even more so in the Jets game. Brady in particular had trouble with his footing and slipped on numerous occasions.
Belichick is confident that the new playing surface will be installed in time and ready to go for Sunday's tilt with the Bears.
"It sounds like it's going to be fine for the game," he said, "so hopefully it will be. They've been working around the clock. They've been working hard. I'm sure that they'll have it ready to go."
Belichick knew that something had to be done in a hurry but stopped short of blaming the playing surface for his team's last two losses at home.
"The last game we played," he admitted, "the field was unplayable. We've tried to play with grass here, and it just hasn't – for one reason or another – worked out. We've had to re-sod the field at least once, and in several cases, multiple times during the year. And we felt like in the best interest of the organization and the league and the game that we get a surface that is more conducive to the level of play that we have on it."
Although statistically he may not be enjoying his finest season, Brady is still one of the best in the business at quarterback. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has thrown 19 TD passes against nine INTs, but his completion percentage (59.6) and yards per attempt (6.9) are well below his career averages. Brady lost both of his starting receivers from 2005 - Deion Branch and David Givens - but seems to be developing some rapport with first-year Patriot Reche Caldwell the last two games.
Belichick has a laundry list of reasons why Brady is the best in the business under center, but most of all, he simply wins ballgames.
"He's a winner," he said. "He wins a lot of games. He's very team-oriented, unselfish, works hard, works well with his teammates, and is very dependable. Demands a lot of himself, but bottom line is he's won a lot of games, and that's what a quarterback really needs to do is to figure out how to manage the game. It's not about how many stats or yards or whatever he has. It's about whether he can make the plays that, at his position, that your team needs to make to win the game."
Mike Nolan of the 49ers and Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars turned some heads a week ago by wearing suits on the sidelines. Belichick usually wears a hooded sweatshirt on game day and has been playfully criticized for looking more janitor than CEO. Even his latest protoge, Jets front man Eric Mangini, thinks his mentor should spruce it up a notch.
Never one to divulge too much information, Belichick was intrigued by the idea of wearing his Sunday best on Sundays.
"I'm thinking about it," he said. "I don't want to give away the game plan."
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