FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — From unacceptable to unwatchable.
One week after a shouting match in the locker room following a loss that receiver Brandon Marshall deemed "unacceptable," the Bears fell meekly to the Patriots 51-23 on Sunday. New England scored three touchdowns in the final 1:52 of the first half to turn a 10-point lead into a 38-7 advantage.
"We got behind pretty early and didn't make it much of a ballgame," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who called the second-quarter turning point "agonizing."
"We've got to decide how we want to end this year," said Cutler, whose fumble led to the touchdown that made it 38-0. "Do we want to just pack it in and hover around .500, maybe a little bit below, or do we want to use the talent in that locker room to try to make a run for this?"
The Bears claimed to have pulled themselves together after last week's 27-14 home loss to the Miami Dolphins, a game followed by shouting that could be heard outside of the locker room. But they were quickly exposed by the Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski connection.
The Patriots quarterback picked apart the Chicago defense, completing 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. Gronkowski caught nine passes for 149 yards and three TDs before leaving in the third quarter with what the team said was dehydration.
The biggest show of defense from the Bears was when Marshall told reporters waiting to enter the locker room after the game to "put your ears closer to the door."
But there was no yelling, and the most coach Marc Trestman would say was that the first half was "inexcusable." Even defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, who injured his knee celebrating a sack while the Bears trailed 48-23 in the fourth quarter, escaped the coach's wrath.
"I'm disappointed for Lamarr," Trestman said, twice.
New England (6-2) scored on all five of its possessions in the first half - and one of Chicago's - on its way to its fourth straight win. The Bears (3-5) fell behind 45-7 early in the second half and lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Bears trailed only 17-7 when Brady hit Gronkowski from 2 yards out on the second play after the 2 minute warning. Chicago went three and out, and Julian Edelman returned the punt 42 yards to the Bears' 19.
A penalty moved it to the 9, and then Brady hit Brandon LaFell on the first play to make it 31-7. On the Bears' next possession, Zach Moore knocked the ball out of Cutler's hands and Rob Ninkovich returned the fumble 15 yards for a touchdown.
"Some guys are going to beat themselves up over the bye (week). Some guys will forget about it when we get on the bus," said Cutler, who was 20-for-30 for 227 yards and three touchdowns, two of them after the game was out of reach. "Either way, we've got to come back ready to play."
Since losing to the Bears 46-10 in the Super Bowl ending the 1985 season, the Patriots are 7-1 against them.
After a slow start this season, Brady has thrown for 1,268 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games. Sunday's performance was the sixth of his career in which he's thrown for at least five scores, including the playoffs. His 148.4 passer rating was the eighth best of his career.
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