Welcome to Season 3, Episode 8 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious-but-lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup that runs right here every Friday afternoon. The 5-2 Patriots, coming off a 27-25 escape against the Jets last Thursday, host the talented, underachieving Chicago Bears, who are 3-4 despite an arsenal of offensive talent to envy. Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let’s get this thing started already …
THREE PLAYERS OTHER THAN TOM BRADY I’LL BE WATCHING
Alshon Jeffery: Brandon Marshall is the bigger name and has more touchdowns (5 to Jeffery’s 2) this season. But Jeffery, chosen with the 45th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (or three spots ahead of where the Patriots grabbed Tavon Wilson), has more receptions (33) and receiving yards (504) than Marshall. Darrelle Revis will probably be on Marshall duty for much of Sunday afternoon. But it is reasonable to wonder whether Jeffery is actually the bigger threat.
Dominique Easley: The more I heard post-draft about his mean-streak and relentless motor, the more I liked the Patriots’ decision to take him with the 29th pick in the first round in this year’s draft. So it’s a bit disheartening to admit that I can’t recall noticing him on the field even once this season so far. With Chandler Jones out for the next several weeks, it’s imperative that the Florida product starts to make some kind of positive impact.
Jonas Gray: The Patriots need to find a between-the-tackles runner to complement Shane Vereen, who is going to wear down if he has to play 80 percent of the snaps again like he did Thursday against the Jets (48 of 60). Gray, a bruising runner who played a dozen snaps in his NFL debut last Thursday, might get a real shot at being the grind-it-out, short-yardage back that the Patriots will eventually need.
I have some observations on this timeless ’80s masterpiece, which I assume was a Quincy Jones production:
Gary Fencik (45) dances like he’s from Yale.
Gary Fencik (45) is from Yale.
I believe Jim Morrissey (51) inadvertently invented The Robot.
If you could read Steve Fuller’s mind (4), it would say, “Don’t bite the lip. You’re cool. Steve. You’re cool. Just don’t bit the lip …”
Willie Gault (83) definitely thinks this is an audition for the Jackson’s Victory Tour. Which is weird since it happened the previous year.
The dude in the hat is Maury Buford (8). He’s a punter and thus lucky he was invited at all.
This — this — was arguably the toughest team in NFL history. And not one of them dances as well as the nerdy teacher in that J.J. Watt commercial for whatever.
Walter Payton (34, of course) was damned good, though. I believe him when he says, “Runnin’ the ball is like makin’ romance.”
COMPLETELY RANDOM FOOTBALL CARD
What’s amazing about that 1985 Bears defense … actually, pretty much everything was amazing about that 1985 Bears defense, which allowed just 12.4 points per game that season — 198 points total, or 65 fewer than the Niners, who owned the league’s No. 2 defense. The Bears shutout both of the NFC playoff opponents, the Rams and Giants, before bludgeoning the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 46-10.
They were the best defense I’ve ever seen. But that additional amazing aspect? They played the entire season without two 16-game starters from the year before, safety Todd Bell and linebacker Al Harris, both of whom held out in contract disputes the entire season.
Bell in particular was no slouch. His ’84 season — 4 interceptions, 4.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, countless tone-setting hits — earned him All-Pro status and a reputation similar to the one Rodney Harrison would build a generation later.
Bell, who died in 2005 at age 46, didn’t let the disappointment of missing that season define him — he went on to lead an admirable and charitable life after football. But can you imagine missing a chance to play on that defense?
It’s a football player’s dream, and it must have haunted Bell and Harris in some way when the night was still.
GRIEVANCE OF THE WEEK
Injuries. Stupid, aggravating, best-laid-plans-wrecking injuries.
Two weeks ago, it was Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley — two valuable starters at the least — who were lost. Thursday, the casualty was Chandler Jones, a pass-rushing menace so far in his third season who will now be absent for at least the next month with a hip injury.
I suppose we should be relieved that it’s only for 4-6 weeks and not season-ending, though they’re without him for a hellacious stretch of the schedule.
I know Bill Belichick brushes injuries off as a part of the game, and we’re supposed to as well, but it is frustrating. The Patriots have seen some opportunities slip in recent years because they could not overcome the attrition. Here’s hoping it’s not happening again.
What, you thought the grievance was going to be about Darrelle Revis’s faulty alarm clock or something. Hell, at this point, I’d just as soon they keep him off the field until 12:59 p.m. or so on Sundays, just to keep him as healthy as possible.
PREDICTION, OR AM I THE ONLY FOOTBALL FAN OUTSIDE OF CHICAGO WHO LIKES JAY CUTLER? I think I am, save for perhaps some weird, stoned straggler in Denver. I like that he’s got Brandon Marshall’s back even when they’re bickering, I like that he looks comically indifferent, I like that he makes fun of himself on “The League,” and I like that he doesn’t give a damn what any one of us thinks.
Generally, though, I also like it when he plays against the local football team. You know he’s going to make two or three ridiculous (in a good way) throws that make you wonder why he’s not one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, and you know he’s going to make two or three ridiculous throws (in a what-the-hell-was-he-thinking? way) that remind you of the worst of Drew Bledsoe. If the Patriots can take advantage of a couple of those inevitable gaffes on Sunday, I like their chances. I like ’em anyway.
Prediction: Patriots 37, Bears 31