- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ stunning 36-7 blowout of the Bears at snowy, windy Soldier Field.
What it means: The Patriots improve to 11-2 and clinch a playoff spot, but this type of convincing effort figures to have analysts thinking about much more than just a playoff spot for this team. The Patriots, who had a 33-0 lead at halftime, look like a well-oiled machine capable of a Super Bowl run.
Impressive burst from Patriots over seven quarters: The Patriots have been on a tear since the fourth quarter of their Thanksgiving win over the Lions. From the fourth quarter of that game, through the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Bears, the Patriots outscored opponents 99-3.
Brady’s interception streak intact: Quarterback Tom Brady continues his remarkable stretch of error-free football. He has now gone eight games without an interception, his last pick coming Oct. 17 on a Hail Mary at the end of regulation against the Ravens. Brady had a few passes tipped the Bears almost intercepted. His MVP candidacy only grew stronger after this effort.
Guyton steps into Spikes’ role and delivers: With rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes serving the first game of his four-game suspension, Gary Guyton stepped into a full-time role and came up with two big plays -- a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter and an interception in the third quarter.
McCourty the big injury to watch: Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who has been impressive in locking down the left side and totaling six interceptions, left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury and did not return. The potential loss of McCourty would be a big blow to the Patriots, who have been dressing just three corners on game-day. In addition, defensive lineman Ron Brace (head) left the game in the third quarter and did not return.
Bears crash back to earth: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher had said during the week that “We’re the best team, period.” They didn’t play like it on this day. The Bears were outclassed, with quarterback Jay Cutler turning into the “Cutler of old” with a mistake-filled performance while the defense was shredded by Brady and Co.
What’s next: The Patriots return home to face the Packers in a Sunday night game. Green Bay lost at Detroit and could be without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who left the game against the Lions with a concussion. It is Rodgers’ second concussion of the season.