From there, it was a breeze, as the Patriots demolished the Bears 51-23.
The Patriots scored on their first drive and never really stopped in the first half. They even scored three touchdowns in 57 seconds near the end of the second quarter.
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Gronk left the game midway through the third quarter because of dehydration, but he had a career day regardless, catching nine passes for 149 yards with three touchdowns. His best play of the afternoon led to his dehydration, when he caught a short pass from Brady, then shrugged off defenders for the next 30 yards and plowed into the end zone.
It’s difficult to remember the stiff, immobile Gronkowski who started the season for the Patriots with a surgically repaired knee. He looks at least 99 percent healthy.
Brady keyed in on his big receivers against the struggling Bears defense while throwing just five incompletions, and all were excusable. Two passes were dropped by wide receiver Julian Edelman, two were dropped by running back Shane Vereen and one fell because of miscommunication with Edelman.
Brady completed 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions and a 148.4 passer rating.
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LaFell set career highs in catches (11) and yards (124) and also scored one touchdown. LaFell now is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season as he continues to gain trust from Brady.
Brady completed all 11 passes he threw to LaFell, and the big wide receiver also drew a key pass interference penalty.
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Gray ran the ball 17 times for 86 yards, showing impressive strength and agility in his second NFL game.
The 5-foot-10, 230-pound running back had some impressive gains early, which helped set the tone for the Patriots’ offense, and made the Bears respect the play-action passing game.
The Patriots reportedly are interested in acquiring another running back before the trade deadline, but that might be unnecessary if they believe Gray can continue to play this well.
The cornerback added a physical presence to the Patriots’ defense and put the clamps on Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett.
Browner allowed a touchdown and was flagged for pass interference on the play, but it was questionable who was interfering with whom. By that point in the game, the Patriots were leading 45-7 anyway, so it really didn’t matter.
Browner played very well, as the starter to begin the season, Alfonzo Dennard, was a healthy scratch.
Photo via Steven Senne/Associated Press