It’s been a rough stretch for the Chicago Bears with three losses in four games, and a loud, emotional locker room after the latest one.
Now they must play in strange surroundings and get booed by New England Patriots fans.
But that actually may help the Bears snap out of their slump and bring plenty of postgame smiles Sunday.
That’s because they’re rolling on the road at 3-1. Only the Dallas Cowboys have a better record away from home.
“Maybe they like to be the villains. Who knows?” Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “Some guys get fired up away from home.”
For Bears running back Matt Forte, the explanation is simple.
“We’ve played solid football when we go win on the road, and at home it’s just changed for some reason,” he said. “On the road, we’ve taken care of the football pretty well, and our defense has gotten a lot of takeaways.”
Of their 12 takeaways, the only one at home came in the opener. In the next two games, both wins, they had four at San Francisco and three at the New York Jets.
Of their 13 giveaways, eight have been at home.
“We prepare for every game the same way,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
And after it’s over, players sometimes give voice to their emotions.
That happened after Chicago’s 27-14 loss at home to Miami last Sunday. Players yelled and wide receiver Brandon Marshall said the team’s 3-4 record was “unacceptable.”
Trestman downplayed any sign of dissension.
“I’ve been in NFL locker rooms for 20 years,” he said. “To me there was nothing there that was at all out of the ordinary or unique.”
As good as the Bears (3-4) have been on the road, stopping the three-game winning streak of the Patriots (5-2) and Tom Brady is a daunting task.
His record as a starter in Foxborough is 98-16, including playoffs. That’s the best of any NFL quarterback since the 1970 merger — and the Bears haven’t played there since 2006.
After a slow start, Brady has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games. And he’s rested after the Patriots had three days off following a 27-25 win over the New York Jets on Oct. 16, their fourth game in 18 days.
“Hopefully, everybody really took advantage of it,” he said.
Some things to watch as the Patriots seek their 13th straight win against an NFC North team:
FORTE’S FORTES: Running with the ball or catching it, Forte is the Bears most productive offensive player. Through his seven games, he’s led the NFL with 52 receptions and 448 yards rushing. He also scored both of Chicago’s touchdowns last Sunday.
He’s seen all sorts of defenses against him: a linebacker dropping into coverage, an extra defensive back. He planned to study how the Patriots handled similar backs.
“You don’t know what to expect,” Forte said, “but the best thing is to try to be prepared to adjust for it.”
PASSING PATRIOTS: With top running back Stevan Ridley sidelined for the season, the Patriots could rely more on the pass. Brady had his three highest passer ratings of the season in his last three games and he’s spreading the ball around more. Ten receivers had catches in a 37-22 win over the Buffalo Bills four days before he connected with six against the Jets.
CUTLER’S CATCHERS: Bears QB Jay Cutler has the best passer rating of any quarterback the Patriots faced this season, But his 74.4 rating last Sunday is his worst of the season. He does have three big targets in wide receivers Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett.
“Bigger guys try to shield their body and catch the ball and shield you away from the ball,” Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We’ve just got to try to play through them to get to the ball.”
RUSHING THE PASSER: Bears defensive end Willie Young is tied for the NFC lead with seven sacks. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones leads his team with 4 1-2 sacks but is expected to miss about a month with a hip injury sustained against the Jets. The Patriots also are without leading tackler Jerod Mayo, who has a season-ending knee injury.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Bears have a bye after the game, providing extra time to prepare to visit Green Bay on Nov. 9. The Patriots head into the toughest part of their schedule. They’re home against Denver, have a bye, then play Indianapolis, Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego in succession.