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Nothing special: Bears give up two special-teams TDs in 38-31 loss to Patriots

The Bears spotted the defending AFC champions two special teams touchdowns. Their own quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, threw two interceptions inside the Patriots’ 35-yard. And their defense, considered perhaps the league’s best three weeks ago, turned in another uninspired performance.

Those factors conspired for a 38-31 Patriots win Sunday at Soldier Field, knocking the Bears down to 3-3 and into their first losing streak of the season. It was close — little-used receiver Kevin White caught a 54-yard Hail Mary at the 1-yard line, but was tackled immediately after the clock expired.

Each Patriots special teams score came at at a crucial point in the game.

Jordan Howard had run in a two-yard touchdown four minutes into the second quarter to give the Bears a 10-point lead when Cordarelle Patterson took the ensuing kickoff at full speed. He was untouched through the first line of blockers. When he reached the 30, sidestepped right, leaving Bears rookie cornerback Kevin Tolliver on the ground, and ran for a 95-yard touchdown.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Patriots on Sunday. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Patriots on Sunday. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

With the game tied with 5:53 left in the third quarter, the Bears lined up to punt. Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower plowed past Ben Braunecker, knocking the tight end to the ground, and blocked Pat O’Donnell’s kick.

Kyle Van Noy picked the ball up at the Bears’ 29 and ran it in for a touchdown to take a 31-24 Patriots lead. It marked the Patriots’ first blocked punt returned for a score since 1996.

The Bears were no match for Tom Brady at first. The Patriots quarterback completed four of five passes on the team’s first drive, including the last one, a screen to receiver Julian Edelman on third-and-1. Edelman put his head down and plowed nine yards for a touchdown.

The Bears scored the next 17 points, though. Cody Parkey made a 46-yard field goal on his first try since missing a 53-yard potential game –winner last week.
Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski forced a Patterson fumble on the kickoff. DeAndre Houston-Carson recovered the ball at the 24. Five plays later, Trubisky made the most memorable play of the afternoon. On third-and-5 from the 8, he rolled right. Unable to find an open receiver, he doubled back across the field, running backward to the 31-yard line. Untouched, he kept rolling back left, eventually reaching the sideline and going up the field, behind a crushing Cody Whitehair block, for an 8-yard touchdown.

He ran 71.9 yards on the play, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the most ground covered on a play that was less than a 50-yard gain in the league this year.

The Bears got the ball back three plays later when Patriots running back Sony Michel fumbled while suffering a grisly knee injury. Rookie defensive tackle Bilal Nichols was credited with the forced fumble and fumble recovery.

The Bears needed nine plays to go 36 yards for the score. They barely got there. After converting a fourth-and-4 on a 17-yard pass to Trey Burton, they took advantage of two Patriots flags. One came on an incomplete pass on third-and-goal from the 5. Two plays later, Howard plunged ahead for a two-yard touchdown.

That set up Patterson’s touchdown return, which shifted momentum inside Soldier Field. Down 17-14, the Patriots forced a three-and-old and scored on the next drive when Brady found James White for a five-yard touchdown. The Patriots led 21-17 at halftime.

On the third play of the second half, Trubisky used his legs again, this time running 39 yards to the Patriots’ 1. After an illegal formation penalty pushed the Bears back, Trubisky eventually threw a six-yard pass to Tarik Cohen on third down to take the lead. Stephen Gostkowski’s 29-yard field knotted the game halfway through the third quarter.

The blocked punt gave the Patriots the lead two minutes later.

Trubisky threw interceptions to end the next two Bears drive. He threw a  ball to the right to Josh Bellamy that Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson picked at the New England 21.

Later, Trubisky left a pass to Anthony Miller a bit short, and Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones intercepted the ball at the 4. The Patriots marched 96 yards on nine plays, and White’s two-yard touchdown catch gave them a 38-24 lead.

Trubisky struggled with accuracy, completing 26-of-50 pass attempts for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two picks.

The Bears gave themselves some life when, midway through the fourth quarter, safety Adrian Amos popped a pass out of fullback James Develin’s arms. It landed in Kyle Fuller’s hands for an interception. Two minutes later, Trey Burton was standing in the end zone, celebrating an 11-yard score that put them down seven with 4:13 to play.

The Patriots bled the clock expertly, though, punting with 30 seconds left when the Bears were out of timeouts.