The Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski connection once again looks like one of the top combinations in football and the Patriots offense as a whole looks plenty prepared for its showdown with 6-1 Denver next week in Foxboro. The Pats (6-2) rang up their highest point total of the season Sunday, obliterating Chicago, 51-23, as they won their fourth straight game. The 51 points was New England’s highest output since its 55-31 win over the Steelers last November.
Brady was superb, completing 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. Three of Brady’s touchdown passes were caught by Gronkowski, who had a monster afternoon with nine catches for 149 yards. It was Gronkowski’s first three-touchdown day since he worked a trifecta against the Broncos in the 2011 playoffs.
When Brady wasn’t going to his tight end, he was looking in the direction of Brandon LaFell, who caught a team-high 11 balls. LaFell finished with 124 yards receiving with a touchdown and now appears completely comfortable in the Patriots offense.
The Pats scored four touchdowns in the second quarter alone, but it could have easily been five. To close the first quarter and open the second, The Patriots were unable to punch it in from a yard out and it had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal after a false start penalty backed them up a tad on fourth down.
Darrelle Revis had Brandon Marshall duty for much of the afternoon and limited Chicago’s star receiver to just three catches for 35 yards. Despite the absence of Chandler Jones, who is nursing a hip injury, the Pats were able to frustrate Jay Cutler on occasion and wound up sacking him three times for a loss of 18 yards. Rob Ninkovich was the beneficiary of a Cutler fumble with 55 seconds left in the first half as he recovered and returned the ball for a 15-yard touchdown. Ninkovich’s score was the Pats’ third touchdown in a 57 second span and gave the home team a 38-7 lead heading into the half.
The Bears fell to 3-5 on the season and now share the NFC North basement with the Vikings, who won Sunday.
By beating Chicago, the Patriots moved to 6-2 on the season.
•The Patriots lead the 5-3 Bills by one game in the AFC East.
•The 6-1 Broncos, who visit Gillette Stadium next Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS), are the only team with a better record than the Pats in the AFC.
•The Patriots were 6-2 at this point in the season last year. Through eight games in 2012, they were 5-3 and through eight games in 2011, they were 5-3.
On Sunday against Chicago, Tom Brady had his first five touchdown game since a 45-10 playoff win over the Broncos in 2011. In that blowout win, Brady threw six touchdown passes.