Shortly after Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre‘s record for most career touchdowns Sunday night, a quick video from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady popped up on t

Shortly after Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre‘s record for most career touchdowns Sunday night, a quick video from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady popped up on the Broncos website. A brief message from Brady offered congratulations to Manning on the occasion of his new record, which he set in a thrashing of the Niners.

“Congratulations, Peyton on your touchdown record, a great achievement,” offered Brady. “We’ll see you in a few weeks.”

The Patriots and Broncos meet Nov. 2 in Foxboro.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jay Cutler and the Bears have started the season 3-4. They'll try and improve to .500 when they visit Foxboro on Sunday. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jay Cutler and the Bears have started the season 3-4. They’ll try and improve to .500 when they visit Foxboro on Sunday. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Bears, who will travel to Foxboro on Sunday for a contest with the Patriots.

1. There’s some serious drama going on in Chicago.

In the wake of Sunday’s home loss to the Dolphins — which dropped the Bears record to 3-4 on the season — there were reports of screaming and yelling in the Chicago locker room, with wide receiver Brandon Marshall reportedly at the center of the action. Marshall said after the game that “there should be a lot of frustration” because of the sluggish start, and took exception to a question about a reported confrontation between him and kicker Robbie Gould. “OK, were you in here?” Marshall asked, per ESPN Chicago. “Were you in this locker room? This is a team matter. That has nothing to do with you. There’s a lot of guys this means a lot to. We’re 3-4. We need to play better. That’s unacceptable. That’s unacceptable. Unacceptable; shouldn’t have lost today, shouldn’t be 3-4. [The] offense [has] got to play better. It’s as simple as that.”

2. They have one of the best multidimensional backs in the league in Matt Forte.

The 29-year-old Forte is the driving element of the Chicago offense — after seven games, he leads the Bears in rushing (111 carries, 448 yards, three TDs) and receiving (52 catches, 436 yards, two TDs). The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder, who was a second-round pick out of Tulane in 2008, is the only back in the league who has at least 50 catches and 50 carries through the first seven games of the season, and is second in the league in combined yards from scrimmage with 884. (He trails only DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys with 1,072.) Currently, he’s in the midst of a stretch that includes at least 10 catches in two of his last three games, while he has carried the ball at least 12 times a game every game this season. (For what it’s worth, the Bears have some pretty good depth in the passing game, with four players each having topped 30 catches through seven games, including Forte, tight end Martellus Bennett with 41 and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery with 33 and Marshall with 31.)

3. When the quarterback turns the ball over, it’s bad news for the Bears.

The fact that a team struggles when it turns the ball over isn’t exactly a newsflash, but so far this season, whenever Jay Cutler has turned over the ball, it’s meant a Bears loss. After seven games, the Bears stand at plus-2 (12 takeaways, 10 giveaways) when it comes to takeaway ratio, a perfectly respectable number. However, the 3-4 Bears have lost every game in which Cutler has committed a turnover. The quarterback tossed two interceptions in each of the team’s three previous losses heading into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. In addition, he committed two more turnovers (an interception and a fumble) against Miami. “After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball,” said Miami defensive back Reshad Jones who picked off Cutler on Sunday. “He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. I tried to take advantage of that and it paid off.” Per ESPN, in each of the team’s four losses this season, Cutler’s turnovers have led to a total of 37 points for the opponent. That doesn’t bode well for Chicago, which is facing a New England team that enters this week’s action best in the league at plus-9, a stat that includes 14 takeaways (seven fumbles, seven interceptions).

4. Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller is really good.

Fuller, the first-round pick out of Virginia Tech this past spring, has done plenty to warrant Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration over the first half of the season with three interceptions, one of the best totals in the league. (According to the NFL’s official stat service, he became the first player with three interceptions and three forced fumbles in the first six games of a season since former Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins did it in 1999.) However, the rookie left the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with what the team is calling a hip injury, which could leave his status for this week’s clash with the Patriots in doubt. (In addition, it was later revealed he suffered some sort of hand injury.) The Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, he’s become a vital part of the Chicago defense in a very short span.

5. They are middle-of-the-pack when it comes to getting pressure on the passer, but Willie Young is pretty good at what he does.

The defensive end out of North Carolina State was leading the NFL in sacks with seven going into Sunday Night Football. The 29-year-old Young has flashed a nice consistency when it comes to setting the edge in the run game and also shown an ability to get after the quarterback. Working primarily as a left defensive end over the course of the first seven games, he’s part of a defensive front that includes defensive tackles Jay Ratliff (3.5) and Stephen Paea (3.5 sacks) and defensive ends Jared Allen (1.5 sacks) and Lamarr Houston. The group will provide another stern test for the New England offensive line this week. Oh, and for what it’s worth, Brady and Young have a very brief history together:

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots face the Bears next Sunday at Gillette Stadium, and if what happened following Chicago’s loss to the Dolphins is any indication, it could be an interesting afternoon in Foxboro.

The Patriots face the Bears next Sunday at Gillette Stadium, and if what happened following Chicago’s loss to the Dolphins is any indication, it could be an interesting afternoon in Foxboro. In the wake of the Bears’ latest defeat — a 27-14 loss to Miami — reports are that things got pretty heated in the locker room, particularly between wide receiver Brandon Marshall and his teammates.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner made his season debut in last Thursday’€™s win over the Jets after missing the first six games — the first four because of a substance abuse suspension and the last two due to an ankle injury.

Browner started at corner opposite Darrelle Revis, but played 41 of a possible 87 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Playing roughly half the snaps may not be what many thought would happen going in, but following the game he admitted he needed to work on his conditioning and on Sunday Bill Belichick noted Browner has ground to make up on the rest of the league having missed the first six weeks of the season.

“€œWe’€™re almost at the halfway point. Teams have had a ton of practices, a lot of games, a lot of reps, a lot of meetings, a lot of corrections,”€ said Belichick on a conference call. “I’€™d say overall as a league, teams are doing things pretty well, certainly a lot better than they were at the beginning of September. So when you miss that time and everybody else is moving ahead and individually, if a particular player isn’€™t, he has to make that ground up. It’€™s doable but it’€™s still a gap.”

Browner was able to workout with the team and attend meetings at the facility during the first four weeks, but was not able to practice. Although he was able to take mental reps in meetings, there is a lot to be said for playing in actual games, which is something Browner is going through right now trying to get up to speed with the rest of the league.

“[Browner] practiced and did everything with the team all through the spring, all through the offseason program, all though the spring and all through training camp, including the Giants preseason game,” Belichick said. “Then, he wasn’€™t able to participate on the field with the team for those four weeks, but he was able to work out and be in meetings and keep up with the adjustments and game plan things that we put in from week-to-week.

“Now he’€™s had an opportunity to get back on the field and refine those skills — at game speed or practice slash game speed that are important. That’€™s really what it’€™s about for and [Brian] Tyms too, for that matter. No different than if a player coming back from an injury where again, he’€™s around the team. He’€™s able to keep up with the mental part of what’€™s going on in his area, his side of the ball, but he’€™s not able to actually go out there and participate and get his timing and technique work on the field.

“€œThat’€™s the part that takes time and reps to gain confidence and to achieve that high level of execution that we see in the league now at this point in the season.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner made his season debut in last Thursday’€™s win over the Jets after missing the first six games — the first four because of a substance abuse suspension and the last two due to an ankle injury.

Browner started at corner opposite Darrelle Revis, but played 41 of a possible 87 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Playing roughly half the snaps may not be what many thought would happen going in, but following the game he admitted he needed to work on his conditioning and on Sunday Bill Belichick noted Browner has ground to make up on the rest of the league having missed the first six weeks of the season.

“€œWe’€™re almost at the halfway point. Teams have had a ton of practices, a lot of games, a lot of reps, a lot of meetings, a lot of corrections,”€ said Belichick on a conference call. “I’€™d say overall as a league, teams are doing things pretty well, certainly a lot better than they were at the beginning of September. So when you miss that time and everybody else is moving ahead and individually, if a particular player isn’€™t, he has to make that ground up. It’€™s doable but it’€™s still a gap.”

Browner was able to workout with the team and attend meetings at the facility during the first four weeks, but was not able to practice. Although he was able to take mental reps in meetings, there is a lot to be said for playing in actual games, which is something Browner is going through right now trying to get up to speed with the rest of the league.

“[Browner] practiced and did everything with the team all through the spring, all through the offseason program, all though the spring and all through training camp, including the Giants preseason game,” Belichick said. “Then, he wasn’€™t able to participate on the field with the team for those four weeks, but he was able to work out and be in meetings and keep up with the adjustments and game plan things that we put in from week-to-week.

“Now he’€™s had an opportunity to get back on the field and refine those skills — at game speed or practice slash game speed that are important. That’€™s really what it’€™s about for and [Brian] Tyms too, for that matter. No different than if a player coming back from an injury where again, he’€™s around the team. He’€™s able to keep up with the mental part of what’€™s going on in his area, his side of the ball, but he’€™s not able to actually go out there and participate and get his timing and technique work on the field.

“€œThat’€™s the part that takes time and reps to gain confidence and to achieve that high level of execution that we see in the league now at this point in the season.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick says Jay Cutler does a number of things well as the Patriots prepare for next Sunday's game against the Bears. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick says Jay Cutler does a number of things well as the Patriots prepare for next Sunday’s game against the Bears. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Through the first seven games of the season the Patriots have gone up against some of the more weaker quarterbacks in the NFL.

This will change this coming week when the Patriots host Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Belichick had nothing but high praise for the nine-year veteran on Sunday’€™s conference call.

“He’€™s got an excellent arm. He really can make any throw that you want him to make,” Belichick said. “He’€™s accurate on long throws, intermediate routes, comeback routes, inside cuts — on the catch and run plays, underneath the defense. Smart guy. Reads coverage’€™s well. Recognizes blitzes.

“He has a lot of weapons. He knows how to use them. There are different skill levels there and certainly he knows to use the size of receivers and tight ends and puts the ball where only they can get it — they can box out the defender. Gives their receivers a chance to make a play on the ball and a lot of the times they can just go up, box the defender out and rebound it, make a catch even though they are actually technically covered, but not well enough from keeping them from catching the ball. Cutler does all those things pretty well. He’€™s mobile. He’€™s a hard guy to get in the pocket, he has quickness and the ability to keep plays alive.”

Cutler enters play Sunday fifth in the league in passing yards with 1,628, as well as having the fifth-best completion percentage at 68.1. His 13 touchdown passes are also fifth in the league, tied with Tom Brady.

The Patriots passing defense will be put to the test as it entered Thursday’€™s contest with the Jets third in the NFL in passing defense and allowed 226 passing yards to Geno Smith. In four of the seven games, the defense has allowed 205 passing yards or fewer, while Cutler has thrown for 225 yards or more in five of his six games entering Sunday, including two, 300+ yard games.

The Bears will face the Dolphins Sunday and with the Dolphins being a member of the AFC East, Belichick said it will be helpful seeing Chicago face a team the Patriots are familiar with, having not played the Bears in four years and them having a completely different coaching staff.

“It’€™s somewhat helpful that we see them against a team we know well in Miami,” he said. “We’ll see how they matchup against players that we are very familiar with. Not saying we wouldn’€™t gain anything watching any of their other games. It’€™s always good to see them play a team — Jets, Miami — teams that we know well and know the personnel of our division teams and look at it relative to what they are doing against the Chicago guys and individual matchups. It gives you a better feel for it, but it’€™s not like we don’€™t get anything from watching other games. I do think you get a little bit more from watching a team you know well.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Let Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com help guide you in setting your Week 7 fantasy football lineups. Davidson will be answering all your questions, while advancing the fantasy football conversation, starting at 11 a.m. (For this week’s starts and sits, click here.) Get your questions in now:

Live Blog Fantasy Football Week 7 Live Chat
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Tom Brady's stats through seven games this year are better than they were at the same point in 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady‘s stats through seven games this year are better than they were at the same point in 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With seven games in the books for the 2014 Patriots, the strengths and weaknesses of the team are starting to come into sharper focus. You can use stats to make any argument you want, but from this viewpoint, when given some context and deconstructed with the help of some film breakdown, they can be very illustrative, and help give a clearer picture of where a team succeeds or fails. With that in mind, here are 10 numbers that help shed some light on the state of the team after seven games, and where they could be headed the rest of the way.

1) 21.1 – The difference in passer rating for Tom Brady between the first seven games of the 2014 season when stacked against the first seven games of the 2014 season. (Brady’€™s rating for the first seven games of this season is 96.4, while he was at 75.3 over the first seven games of 2013.) Much of that is likely attributable to the presence of Rob Gronkowski — he missed the first six games of the 2013 season, and it took him a few games after that to get up to speed in the offense. This year, even though the big tight end only recently returned to 100 percent, he has a clear impact on several aspects of the offense, and the passing game in particular. Even when he’€™s a decoy, he opens things up underneath for other pass catchers like Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen.

Here’€™s a complete look at Brady’€™s numbers from the first seven games in 2013 measured against the first seven games of 2014:

2013: 158-for-285, 1,708 yards, 55 percent. 8 TDs, 5 INTs, 20 sacks
2014: 151-for-246, 1,775 yards, 62.1 percent, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, 13 sacks

2) 7 – The difference in sack totals for Brady from the first seven games of the 2013 season (20) to the first seven contests of the 2014 campaign (13). There are multiple reasons for the change — when you put a stopwatch on him, it’€™s clear that quicker release times have been the focus. But while there have been major issues with pass protection through the earlier part of the season — and pressures still remain an issue — things have started to even out slightly over the course of the last month. If the Patriots get center Bryan Stork and guard Dan Connolly back for next Sunday’€™s game against the Bears, those numbers should get better.

3) 0 – The number of pass plays of 40 yards or more the Patriots have allowed over the course of the first seven games of the season. The Patriots are the only team in the league to not yield a pass play of 40-plus yards to this point in the season. The old-school ‘€œGet The [Bleep] Back’€ directive has been employed to great effect this year, as the New England secondary hasn’€™t been beaten deep. At the same time, the priority or now allowing deep balls can occasionally be a double-edged sword, as it leaves a pass defense more vulnerable to shorter and intermediate pass plays. We’€™ve seen that on occasion, as teams have taken advantage of some softer spots in the Patriots secondary to occasionally pick up chunk yards in the passing game. But for a defense that was routinely torched by the long ball over the last four years, it’€™s a tradeoff they appear to be safe making.

4) 190 – The number of different offensive lineups used by the Patriots over the course of the first seven games, which includes seven different starting lineups. It’€™s not completely fair to judge New England against the rest of the league — the fact that the Patriots and Jets played on Thursday night throws the numbers slightly out of whack — but it’€™s unlikely any team will be able to surpass New England by the end of the week, as the Patriots are miles ahead of the rest of the league. The Jets are No. 2 at 156, and the Lions are next at 154 different lineup combinations on offense. (On the other end of the spectrum, the Broncos have utilized just 43 different lineup combinations.) Much of it has to do with the constant shuffling along the offensive line, but there has also been a lot of different combinations in the backfield as well.

5) 3 – The number of times the Patriots have allowed 190 or more rushing yards this season, which was first brought to our attention by colleague Kevin Duffy. In the opener, the Dolphins rushed for 191 yards, while the Chiefs hit for 207 in the Monday Night massacre last month. And on Thursday, the Jets rushed for 218 yards.  (To put this number in perspective, from 2005 through 2013, New England allowed 190-plus rushing yards five times.) The statistical damage has been minimized slightly because the Patriots have held their four other opponents (Minnesota, Oakland, Cincinnati and Buffalo) to less than 80 yards on the ground.

6) 144, 1,348 – The number of penalties and penalty yards the 2014 Patriots are on pace to finish with. They have 63 through seven games (not counting calls that were declined or offset) for 590 penalty yards. Both are tops in the league, but it’€™s important to remember that because of Thursday’€™s game, New England and the Jets have played seven games, while most of the rest of the league is still on six games. Not that it matters — the Patriots are 100 penalty yards ahead of their nearest competitor, the Redskins (480). Two important things to remember: one, the franchise record for penalties in a season is 114, set by the 1985 team, while the franchise record for most penalty yards in a season is 1,051, set by the 1992 team. And two, the league record for penalties in a season is 163, set by the 2012 Raiders, who also set the NFL mark for penalty yards in a season (1,358).

7) 0.5 – While there have been statistical gains when it comes to fewer sacks, when you stack the start of the 2013 season against the start of the 2014 season, the Patriots have seen a drop-off in yards per carry. Through seven games last year, the Patriots were averaging 4.2 yards per carry, one of the best averages in the league through that span (195 carries, 813 rushing yards). Through seven games in 2014, the Patriots are averaging 3.7 yards per carry (193 carries, 723 rushing yards). It doesn’€™t seem like a colossal difference, but over the course of a 16-game season, it starts to add up.

8) 6.6 – The difference, percentage-wise, in New England’€™s third-down defense over the first seven games. Last season through seven games, the Patriots defense held teams to a 39.4 conversion rate (43-for-109) on third down. This year, that number has ballooned to 46 percent rate (40-for-87), including strong third-down efforts by the Jets (56 percent) and Chiefs (58 percent).

9) .686 – Heading into Sunday’€™s slate of games, the combined winning percentage of the next six opponents on the Patriots schedule: Chicago (3-3) Denver (4-1), Colts (4-2), Lions (4-2), Packers (4-2), Chargers (5-1).

10) 5 – In truth, most of these numbers are just window dressing. Bill Belichick has said on several occasions that in the end, it comes down to an ability to score points and stop the opponents from scoring. And it it’€™s important to note that the Patriots have averaged five more points per game through the first seven games of the 2014 season (26.7 points per game) than they did through the first seven games of the 2013 season (21.7). The numbers on defense aren’€™t as positive, as those have gone from 18.1 points allowed in 2013 to 22 points per game in 2014. But the fact that the average point differential has gone from 3.6 points per game last year to 4.7 this season is a positive for this franchise.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price