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Patriots Are 4-0 With a Soft Touch

September 22, 1997|From Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — The defense was exceptional, Drew Bledsoe was efficient and New England stayed unbeaten. Now the Patriots will start playing good teams.

The Patriots knocked off another patsy on Sunday, defeating the wounded and winless Chicago Bears, 31-3, although it was only 17-3 halfway through the fourth quarter.

New England has outscored its opponents, 130-40. But its first three were San Diego, Indianapolis and the New York Jets, and the combined record of their four foes was 2-10 before Sunday.

"I don't think there is a team that can match up with us man-to-man," Bledsoe said after throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. "But we haven't played the elite teams in the NFL yet."

The easy stretch ends after an open week when they play the Broncos in Denver. And the Patriots face Green Bay three weeks later.

The Patriots are 4-0 for the first time since 1974. The Bears are 0-4 for the third time in their 78 years.

The Patriots gained 402 yards and held the Bears to 199, the same total New England's Curtis Martin ran for the previous week. "They are obviously a well-balanced team," Chicago Coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They are probably a little underrated from a defensive standpoint."

The Bears concentrated on stopping Martin and pressuring Bledsoe, but that exposed them to quick passes.

Bledsoe's touchdown plays covered seven yards to Vincent Brisby in the first quarter and 52 to Troy Brown in the second, with Brown running the last 43 yards.

New England struggled on the ground until Martin broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run with 7:44 left, making the score 24-3.

Rick Mirer, drafted second behind Bledsoe in 1993, started at quarterback in place of Erik Kramer for the Bears, but the change didn't amount to much. Mirer was 17 of 25 for 154 yards with two interceptions.

"They are going to do a lot of things that make you look bad at times," Mirer said. "Unfortunately, we did things to make it worse."

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