Patriots prove there’s still a gap between AFC and NFC in dismantling of Bears

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: The wind swirls snow as Tom Brady  of the New England Patriots calls the signals against the Chicago Bearsat Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here are a six-pack of observations from the Patriots massive 36-7 beatdown of the Bears on Sunday.

1. The gap between the AFC and NFC is still wide.
This was only one game on one Sunday between two teams in the NFL. And the NFC still holds the most recent edge over the AFC in the only game that matters. But the Patriots’ victory over the Bears on Sunday still proves that there’s a wide gap between the two conferences. It’s doubtful that anyone was surprised the Patriots beat the Bears, who many believe are highly overrated. But let’s look at the facts. The Bears were one of the hottest teams coming into this game. They were at home. They had just witnessed the Packers lose to the Lions and they had an opportunity to take a two-game lead in the NFC North. They were home underdogs, which is a role they absolutely love. This should have been a much closer game and it wasn’t. It was a massacre – a true murder by numbers. The Pats outgained the Bears 27 to 12 in first downs and 475 to 185 in total yardage. They also forced four turnovers as Tom Brady threw for a season-high 369 yards and two touchdowns. Again, the Bears are only one NFC team and maybe if the Falcons played the Patriots next Sunday, the outcome would be different. But it’s hard to refute after watching this game that there isn’t a talent gap between the top teams in the AFC and the top teams in the NFC.

2. Maybe the Bears aren’t who we thought the were.
Are the Bears for real? I don’t know. They had a game they’d like to forget but overrated? You know people are going to throw out that term but I’d counter with: What did you expect? If you thought the Bears were overrated coming into this game then you’re not surprised that New England won. If you want overrated, try the New York Jets. That’s overrated. I don’t think a team that beat a red-hot Philadelphia team a couple of weeks ago is overrated. I just think the Patriots are that much better. You had two hot teams face each other and one flexed its dominance while the other one absolutely sh*t themselves. I still happen to think that this Bears team can do some good things. I still think they can win a playoff game at home. Are they legit Super Bowl contenders? Maybe not. But I also don’t think after one embarrassing loss you can vehemently answer “no” to the previous question.

3. There’s Tom Brady and then there’s everyone else.
A year ago Peyton Manning took the Colts to the Super Bowl and people kind of pushed Brady to the side. But isn’t it interesting that at a time when Manning struggled badly over these last couple of weeks, all Brady did was stake his claim to be this year’s MVP. He was absolutely brilliant against the Bears, taking what their defense gave him and mastering the short passing game. I thought the Bears’ front four would give Brady more trouble than they did, but the key was that the Pats struck for big plays in the first half. Unless he gets hurt or absolutely collapses over the next three weeks, he’s going to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. As of right now, there’s nobody else.

4. The Bears are still in great shape.
Even after their pathetic display on Sunday, the Bears are in good shape in the NFC North thanks to Green Bay’s loss to Detroit. The Bears missed out on an opportunity to build a two-game lead in the division but they can still secure first place with a win against the Vikings and a Packers loss to these same Patriots next Sunday. So if Lovie Smith’s team is looking for a silver lining, it’s that this game becomes irrelevant if they win next weekend and Green Bay loses. Or, at least irrelevant in terms of the standings.

5. The Pats are peaking at the right time.
Some teams come out of the gates red-hot and slump in the second half. Others start off slow and win enough games in the second half to make the playoffs. Then there are teams like the Patriots, who have won all season but are saving their best effort for the stretch run. This team is starting to click on all cylinders and Bill Belichick has to love how his defense has played the past two games. Statistically, New England’s D is still the biggest weakness on this team. But they’ve held opponents to a combined 10 points the last two weeks and have become incredibly opportunistic of late. Granted, the Jets’ offense is now in a major funk and the weather didn’t help Chicago’s passing game on Sunday, but those factors shouldn’t take away how good the Pats’ defense has been.

6. Who needs Randy Moss?
Remember when the Patriots traded Randy Moss and everyone thought that Belichick had made a huge mistake? “Who is Brady going to throw to?!” they quipped. But after the Pats have racked up 126 points the past three games, nobody remembers that Moss was even on the team earlier in the year. Sure, there have been changes and adjustments. But still Brady and Belichick prosper. It’s a different offense (Belichick incorporates more two-tight end sets now that Moss is gone) but it’s still highly effective. It’s amazing how nobody can figure out New England’s short passing game and how masterful Brady has been finding open passing lanes. And seeing as how he and the rest of the Pats’ offense dismantled Pittsburgh and now Chicago (two of the best defenses in the league), maybe nobody will either.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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