FOXBOROUGH — Spent some quality time with an NFL scout on Wednesday afternoon to talk about this weekend’s Patriots-Bears matchup and get a few things to look for.
New England is going to face the best run defense its squared off against to this point on the season. The Bears allow an average of 83.4 rushing yards per game (fourth in the league), which means the Patriots’ offense — which has relied on the run game, and built some nifty play-action off that the last three weeks — will be tested. To put that in some sort of perspective, the only other team New England has faced in the top 10 in run defense this year is Houston (10th, 95.8). The only team to top 75 yards on the ground against Chicago was Miami last weekend.
While all stats have to be put in context, one of the reasons the Patriots have been able to control the ground game the last three weeks (a stretch where Sony Michel has been impressive and they’ve averaged 148 rushing yards per game as a team) is because they’ve faced occasionally sloppy run defenses in Miami, Indy and Kansas City. And those advantages in that stretch have helped build a more effective play-action game as a result: Over the first three games of the season, New England was 11-for-20 for 139 yards and an interception on play action. The last three games, the Patriots’ have seen a slight spike in their totals, going 14-for-21 for 188 yards with a touchdown (the dramatic 34-yard pass play to Josh Gordon) and an interception off play action.
Basically, Chicago’s run defense gives it a chance, and that’s one of the key points of emphasis this weekend.