EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 13, 2010

Two-minute drill

Hector Longo

BIG SHOWS

1. Tom Brady — Competing at God-like levels. In a blizzard, he hit 27 of 40 for 369 yards and a pair of TDs.

2. Eric Moore — Not sure who he is or how he got here. But I'm sure he was a difference maker yesterday with four solo tackles and a strip sack of a baffled Jay Cutler.

3. Devin McCourty — Turned in the play of the game, stripping Johnny Knox, a fumble scooped up by Gary Guyton for a 35-yard touchdown.

NO SHOWS

Again, this team hasn't turned the football over since Brian Hoyer's interception at Cleveland on Nov. 7. And this defense has given up a total of 10 points in two weeks.

Tough to find them here.

1. Shayne Graham — Missed an extra point.

2. Dane Fletcher — His hold cost Julian Edelman a TD on the punt return.

3. Brandon Meriweather — Continues his giant step backward in 2010 with one tackle.

GRADING THE GROUPS

OFFENSE

Line (A) — Might have been an A+ if Julius Peppers wasn't around. He was about the only Bear not totally neutralized.

Receivers (A+) — The best day a receiver tandem in these parts has delivered in recent memory. Again, in near whiteout conditions, Deion Branch and Wes Welker combined for 16 catches, 266 yards and a TD against one of the game's top defenses.

Running Backs (B+) — Moved the chains, made the blitz pickups and didn't turn the ball over.

Quarterback (A+) — An epic effort.

DEFENSE

Line (B) — As good as the had to be with Chicago stumbling all over itself.

Linebackers (B) — Gary Guyton was opportunistic, scooping up one of the easier TDs he'll ever get. Other than that, they were as good as they had to be with Chicago stumbling all over itself.

Secondary (B) — Devin McCourty made the nice strip, but again, it's monotonous. They were as good as they had to be with Chicago stumbling all over itself.

Special Teams (B) — Conditions were horrifying, and both teams took advantage in the return game. Still, the Pats competed.

Coaching (A+) ... Lovie Smith was overwhelmed.

Turning Point

Low pressure came whipping through the plains, dropping three inches of snow on the Soldier Field turf and providing Jay Cutler with an opportunity to return to his own donkey self after three straight solid games.

Cutler delivered on cue with a 12 for 26, two-pick performance.

Why Belichick is better

In a word, precision.

New England's first unofficial mistake — on offense, defense or special teams — of the game was a Wes Welker drop with 3:32 before halftime. You are talking in an absolute blizzard.

No penalties, no turnovers. No missed assignments.

Bill Belichick's boys played perfectly. Just sit there and let the Bears self-destruct.

Lovie Smith's crew was more than happy to oblige.

No quarter from Belichick

Pats coach Bill Belichick on his expectations from his players on a snowy, windy day like yesterday were incredibly high?

"That's what good football players do," said the coach. "They play well in all conditions."

Danger, danger, danger

Rookie Devin McCourty left the game with a rib injury midway through.

Judging by the way the rookie has played, he'll be a major loss if he's out significant time.

Then again, knowing this defense as it has been, Darius Butler will surely reincarnate himself as a corner and pick off two passes in McCourty's absence next week.

Pat Chung's lack of playmaking is another cause for concern.

That is if any other opponent actually shows up and tries against this team.

Coming up roses

Let's see.

New England wins, the Jets fall and Aaron Rodgers, the Pats' next opponent, gets concussed by the Lions yesterday, making him absolutely doubtful for next week's Gillette Stadium encounter.

Could you have drawn up your Sunday any better?

Now at 11-2, only a stumble at Buffalo on Dec. 26 or at home against Miami stands in the way of the AFC's top seed.