With inclement weather looming, let’s take an in-depth look at what role the elements will play in the game, particularly for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the Bears defense.
Over the past three seasons, both teams have played four regular-season games when the game-time temperature is 30 degrees or below. The Bears have played all four at home, and won all four (the last two ended in overtime). The Patriots are 3-1 overall, but 2-1 with Brady as quarterback. Matt Cassel played in the 47-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals in week 16 of the 2008 season.
Brady not afraid to look deep
Tom Brady generally goes with the same game plan in weather of this nature. The sample size is small, but in his three games in cold weather since 2009, Brady's pass attempts of 15 or more yards account for 18.9 percent of his total, a near match for his 18.6 percent in games in which the temperature is 30 degrees or higher.
However, his numbers are very unlike how Brady usually performs. He completes passes of that length about 46 percent of the time when the temperature is 31 degrees or warmer, but in those three cold-weather contests, he's completed just 19 percent. That includes 0-for-9 on pass attempts of 21 yards or more.
The Bears’ defense has been very successful in the same situations: opposing quarterbacks have a 28.6 percent completion percentage (12-for-42) on passes of 15 or more yards in the four games they've played with weather of this nature.
Going short favors New England
Chicago’s defense has been a sieve on passes of 10 yards or fewer in cold weather over the past three seasons, as it has allowed a 67.2 completion percentage, six touchdowns, and a first down every 3.3 attempts. Tom Brady is actually BETTER on passes of 10 yards or fewer in cold-weather games (129.2 passer rating and averaging a touchdown every 9.8 attempts) than he is when the temperature exceeds 30 degrees (106.0 passer rating, a touchdown every 23.3 attempts).
Play-Action Passing, Since 2008
Game Temperature: 30 degrees or colder
Play-action a key component
Play-action fakes appear to be the equalizer, at least on paper. With the elevated threat of a run (New England averages almost six more carries per game than in warmer weather), Brady has been able to use ball-fakes to beat defenses. Chicago is at the opposite end of the spectrum, well-disciplined and able to stop both the run and the play-action pass. It will be one of many factors to watch in what already figures to be a fascinating game.