4:15 PM ET, December 12, 2010
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
The Chicago Bears hope they can provide more of a challenge than the Patriots' last opponent did.
After a thoroughly dominating performance in one of the most-hyped games of the year, Brady and the AFC East-leading Patriots square off with the first-place Bears in what is expected to be a bitterly cold afternoon at Soldier Field.
New England (10-2) is tied with Atlanta for the NFL's best record and owns a one-game lead over New York in the East. The Patriots moved ahead of the Jets with a stunning 45-3 win Monday in what was being billed as the biggest game of the season.
The marquee showdown fell far short of the buildup, however. The Patriots scored on their first four possessions and handed a New York team that entered the game fourth in the NFL in scoring defense its most lopsided defeat since 1986.
"It was a big win, but it was one win," said Brady, who passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. "There are obviously many more big games for us here down the stretch, none bigger than Chicago."
The Bears (9-3) have a one-game lead over Green Bay in the North and are opening a daunting portion of their schedule. Chicago visits Minnesota next week before hosting the Jets and concluding the season at Lambeau Field.
"We can't be satisfied with where we are right now," quarterback Jay Cutler said after a 24-20 win in Detroit on Sunday.
The Bears got off to a sluggish start against the Lions, allowing 253 first-half yards and falling behind 17-14 at the break. The defense turned up the intensity after halftime, limiting Detroit to 49 yards over the final two quarters en route to winning its fifth in a row.
Chicago is third in scoring defense at 16.0 points and made things tough on the last opponent to visit Soldier Field, frustrating Philadelphia's Michael Vick in a 31-26 victory Nov. 28.
Slowing down Brady and the Patriots, winners of 20 of their last 21 against the NFC, is shaping up to be an even bigger obstacle.
Brady has thrown four touchdowns without an interception in each of his last two games. He has 17 TDs since his last pick, which came against Baltimore on Oct. 17.
"I don't know if stuff like that surprises anybody," Patriots running back Danny Woodhead said.
With Brady making a strong case for his second league MVP award, New England's offense has been nearly unstoppable.
The Patriots -- first in the league in scoring at 31.6 points -- have reached the 30-point mark without committing a turnover in winning their last four games, the first team in history with such a streak. The run began with a 39-point effort against Pittsburgh, second in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.9 points.
"It's not shocking because we have a great offense," tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "We have so many weapons. It's hard to stop an offense like this."
The Bears, tied for fifth in the league with 16 interceptions, are ready to give it a shot.
"How can you not be pumped to play the three-time Super Bowl champions," said Chicago safety Chris Harris, tied for the team lead with three INTs. "I'm very confident about the team that we have here, and I still don't think that we've peaked."
Chicago is playing much better offensively since its bye in Week 8, averaging 24.0 points during its winning streak with Cutler passing for 1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Cutler has posted back-to-back passer ratings over 117.0, and his teams are 19-0 when his rating reaches 100.
Cutler will look to take advantage of a New England pass defense that is second worst in the league at 276.8 yards.
The Patriots' defense suffered a blow Friday, learning third-leading tackler Brandon Spikes was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The rookie linebacker had helped New England put together an impressive defensive performance last week, limiting New York's Mark Sanchez to 164 passing yards while intercepting him three times. The Patriots are tied for second in the NFL with 18 interceptions.
The last meeting between these teams at Gillette Stadium in 2006 was filled with turnovers.
Brady threw two interceptions and the Patriots lost three fumbles, but the defense picked off three passes and forced a fumble in a 17-13 victory.
This will be the teams' first matchup at Soldier Field since 2000. The Bears have won seven of their last eight December home games, and Sunday's forecast calls for temperatures to drop to single digits in the evening.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.2||17.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NE|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NE|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New England leads 3-0|
|Nov 26, 2006||NE 17, CHI 13|
|Nov 10, 2002||NE 33, @CHI 30|