Bears drop another AFC game

The Bears came into Foxborough knowing  that a tough road to victory lay ahead of them.  They were well prepared but were not prepared for Tom Brady at his very best.  Some are saying it  was the best performance of his storied career.  Brady went 30-35 for 354 yards and five touchdowns.

“I love coaching Tom. I’ve been fortunate to have him the whole career since he’s been here,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He does a great job of executing the team game plan.

As for Marc Trestman, his future as the Head Coach of the Bears remains to be seen.  The Bears have now dropped two in a row and four out of their last five games. But it was the Patriots ability to score three touchdowns in less than one minute in the second quarter that may have opened that door, beginning  the “chemistry” problem conversation the Bears are evidently going through in the process.

The Bears go into the bye week with many questions to be answered and things will certainly not be easier when they return to action, on the road visiting Green Bay.  Plenty of great seats and cheap tickets are still available!  Get yours now!

Once Beaten, Often Doubted, Packers Limp Into Game Against Bears

Dungy, however, is not Packers Coach Mike McCarthy. 

“I feel very good about our football team,” McCarthy said after his team’s first loss of the season, 19-14, at Kansas City last Sunday. “We’re 13-1. Our team clearly understands the roller-coaster ride that everybody likes to take you on. We knew the ride would just go that way. So it’s important to stay in touch with reality.”

The reality is the Packers, who had won 19 consecutive games — the second-longest streak in N.F.L. history — lost for the first time in the calendar year. A defense that finished second in fewest points allowed last season has not performed anywhere close to that level this season — the Packers are tied for 14th in points allowed. It had not mattered, however, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers leading an offensive juggernaut that until last week was threatening the N.F.L.’s single-season scoring record established by the undefeated New England Patriots of 2007.

, however, Rodgers completed less than 50 percent of his passes for only the third time in his career and was sacked four times. Kansas City rushed three or four players on about 80 percent of Rodgers’s dropbacks, playing press coverage on the receivers and keeping two safeties deep.

Whether that strategy can be used as a blueprint for beating the Packers in the playoffs remains to be seen, though Rodgers has an opinion.

“Well, I think it’s baloney,” he said. “They have a blueprint for winning any game. If you control the football, you don’t turn the ball over and you can shut the other team down on third down and hold them to 14 points, you should win the game. Other teams have played similar styles of coverages and ideas of rushing four and dropping seven or rushing three and dropping or playing man with two high safeties, and we beat those teams. We just didn’t execute well.”

The more pressing issue is injuries. Green Bay, which won the Super Bowl last year with six starters among 15 players on injured reserve, was unable to persevere last week.

Against Oakland on Dec. 11, the Packers lost the Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings for at least the rest of the regular season with a knee sprain. Against the Chiefs, right tackle Bryan Bulaga was lost for a week or two with a sprained kneecap. His backup, the first-round pick Derek Sherrod, broke his leg and will be out for the rest of the season. Already without the Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton since Oct. 9 because of an injured hamstring, Green Bay’s offensive line will go into Sunday night’s game against Chicago without three of its top four offensive tackles.

Only center Scott Wells and right guard Josh Sitton will be at their usual spots. Marshall Newhouse will be making his 10th consecutive start at left tackle, left guard T. J. Lang play will at right tackle and by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving — will take Lang’s spot at guard.

Considering than Rodgers, the problems up front could not have come at a worse time. Chicago’s front seven is anchored by Julius Peppers, who is one sack from being the 28th player in N.F.L. history with 100 for his career.

The Packers, of course, could run more frequently and turn to more quick-hitting passes to avoid the Bears’ rush, but that is typically not the way McCarthy operates. There is no greater evidence of that than the Atlanta game, when Bulaga was inactive and Clifton exited about five minutes into the second quarter. The Packers had 35 pass plays and only 7 runs with the backups before the final minutes of the game.

“Let’s say you’re going to throw the ball, and a team has a four-man line — there’s only X amount of ways you can figure out how to block those four guys,” the offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We’re not going to change a whole bunch. It’s Dec. 22 and we’ve been at this since July 29, so we’re not staying up inventing new things. We think we have a sound offense, we think we’ve got sound protection schemes, but the foundation of it is if guys block.”

Lang said he expected McCarthy to call a typically aggressive game and to rely on Rodgers, regardless of who was blocking or who they were blocking.

“We have a mentality around here that when somebody gets injured, the next guy steps up and fills his spot,” Lang said. “That’s something, especially on the offensive line, that we take pride in is if you have to come in and fill in, we don’t want to change up the whole game plan. We’re expecting things to be the same. We trust in the guys we’re going to have out there and we trust in the game plan.”

Texans Reach Playoffs, Remain in the Shadows

They are used to those, the team having spent its entire history waiting for Peyton Manning to falter, waiting, too, to find its own killer instinct. The Texans have drafted smartly, signed good free agents and have been in contention before, only to stumble down the stretch, contributing to an identity as perhaps a team that lacked the appropriate mettle to be a champion.

But on the day the playoff picture gained a measure of clarity, the Texans clinched the first playoff spot in franchise history Sunday because their rookie third-string quarterback, T. J. Yates, threw for almost as many yards as the defense allowed the ’ offense .

This is a new-age Texans team, with quarterback Matt Schaub standing on the sideline on crutches as Yates led the winning drive in the closing seconds, and the defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, laughed out as the Dallas Cowboys’ coach last season, engineering a remarkable turnaround in which the . It has made the Texans an unpredictable playoff team in a season that promises more of them.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Yates told reporters after the game. “A lot of people in this organization have waited a long time for this. This is a special day for this team and this organization.”

And yet, the Texans were not even the headliner Sunday. , the unorthodox quarterback whose staggering ability to save the from the brink of disaster, led the Broncos to after they trailed by 10-0 late in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos, 1-4 when Tebow was made the starter, are . Tebow remains a highly inefficient — and deeply enthralling — quarterback. The Broncos’ defense is the real cornerstone for most of those victories. But Tebow’s penchant for elevating his play late in games has captivated the N.F.L., and it will get its truest test next week, when the Broncos host the New England Patriots.

New England can score so many points that Tebow’s late-game heroics would have to start much earlier. But the on Sunday spotlighted the problems with their defense. The Patriots allowed 463 yards, getting hurt by the run and the pass against a last-place team.

Defense has been a problem for the Patriots all season, but with the secondary banged up, and no improvement in sight, it is clear that a New England playoff run will be predicated almost completely on Tom Brady’s arm. Last season, the Patriots were eliminated in the first round with a defense that struggled to hold leads.

“You kind of don’t want to give up those yards in the first place,” Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. “But at the same time, we’re going to bow our necks once we get down there and say, ‘Hey, they’re not getting in the end zone.’ ”

The Texans were the third team to clinch a division title — the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers had already done so — and the Broncos’ victory then secured a playoff spot for the New Orleans Saints. But Sunday dented the hopes of the Bengals and the Tennessee Titans, resuscitated the Jets and the Atlanta Falcons, and highlighted the difference in the Saints’ offense when it does not play under a roof.

It did, though, confirm one thing. The Green Bay Packers are a terrifying team.

— one of the three teams in contention in the A.F.C. West — might have been their most complete game of the season. Aaron Rodgers was routinely brilliant, but the running game — often a nonfactor as Rodgers has carved up the N.F.L. — broke several big runs. And the defense, which has been susceptible to deep passes this season and is statistically among the worst in the league, shut out the Raiders in the first half.

After the Saints, playing outdoors for the last time in the regular season, scored 10 fewer points than their season average in a 22-17 victory at Tennessee, and after the Patriots allowed the Redskins to move the ball effectively, it is clear that the Packers are in a class by themselves.

The only thing that seems able to foil another run to the is the one thing that cast a pall over Lambeau Field on Sunday: injuries to key players, like receiver Greg Jennings, who was carted to the locker room with a knee injury.

That is why the Packers will soon have a difficult decision to make. San Francisco’s surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals imperils the 49ers’ hopes for a first-round playoff bye. If the Packers win next week, they will secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

That will leave them two games with . It is a delicious decision, and in the final three weeks of the season, it may not even be the most thrilling one.