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South Boston Online
South Boston Online
  Thursday, March 5, 2015
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Test Passed
By Paul Noonan

     It was the biggest game of the weekend, and one of the biggest of the year so far:  Two of the NFL’s best teams and leading Super Bowl favorites going at it in what could be a Super Bowl match-up in two months.  For the Chicago Bears it was a chance to prove they’re for real and can play with the big boys of the AFC.  For the Patriots, it was a chance to prove they’re still a Super Bowl threat not to be overlooked.  This was a match- up that everyone paid attention to.

     It was no surprise that defense was the story line in this game.  A combined nine turnovers by both teams proved why opponents usually ask, “how can we beat them’ as opposed to “how can we stop them?’  Neither teams offense was anything to marvel at which was because of the defense on the other side of the ball, as well as poor execution by both teams.  Despite having more turnovers, the Patriots offense looked a little better, as the final score would indicate.  Meanwhile, the Bears offense was plagued by a bad performance by Rex Grossman, the oft-criticized ‘weak’ link.  The Patriots also used special teams play to their advantage as well.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s huge 52 yard kick ended up being a big play.  At the same time, the Pats’ block of Robbie Gould’s first kick turned out to be a valuable play as well.  But the turning point of the game came when each team’s leader went one on one.  Tom Brady’s Maroney impersonation in the fourth quarter on the Bears’ Pro Bowl linebacker, Brian Urlacher, helped lead to the game winning touchdown.  When the Patriots needed the big plays, they got them.  The Bears never did.  The Bears biggest play of the game, forcing Dillon’s fumble in the final minutes, was quickly offset by one of the Patriots, when Asante Samuel intercepted Grossman for the third time.

     So, all the skeptics of the Patriots have been quieted again.  The Pats have beaten one of the best the NFL has to offer.  Even more impressive, they did it with five turnovers.  The win doesn’t mean the Patriots are a Super Bowl contender, or the Bears a pretender, but it highlights that the Pats are still among the league’s elite. The Bears still have to prove they should be there.  With only one plus .500 team left on their schedule, the Pats should cruise to another AFC East title, and possibly a first round bye.  Some skeptics will point to the Pats losses to two of the other AFC favorites (Denver, Indy) as proof that the Pats’ days are done.  But as we all know, the playoffs are a whole new ballgame.  And just like on Sunday, the Pats hope to again prove why they should be counted among the league’s best.

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Patriots' rookie Laurence Maroney continues to impress.