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Patriots-Bears matchup of the day: Friday

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Dec. 10, 2010 @ 2:43 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a matchup to watch in the Week 14 game between the Patriots and Bears:

Patriots RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead vs. Bears run defense

The Pats are a pass-first team, and a big reason for their success this season has been because of QB Tom Brady's MVP-like play. But what makes them so dynamic is the ability to run the football to change the pace. The Patriots have failed to rush for 100 yards three times this season and lost two of those games.

They average 111.5 yards on the ground and 4.2 yard per carry behind two undrafted backs, Green-Ellis and Woodhead. Green-Ellis is their first- and second-down back, as well as the go-to guy on the goal line. The Law Firm has 11 rushing touchdowns this season. Woodhead is the third-down back and a weapon as a receiver. He has 355 rushing yards and 334 receiving yards with four total touchdowns.

The two backs find their success going behind OLG Logan Mankins and veteran TE Alge Crumpler. Because of the success of the passing game, both RBs have had big seasons. But they face their stiffest test since the Steelers in Week 10 — the Bears' run "D."

Led by LBs Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, the Bears are allowing just 84.9 yards per game on the ground, but the most notable stat is turnovers. The Bears have forced a league-high 11 fumbles. Urlacher and Briggs are tremendous at fighting through blockers and getting backs wrapped up as Bears defenders swarm and try to rip the ball out. They will have a tough time getting a fumble from Green-Ellis. The third-year player has never coughed up the ball in 263 career carries. Woodhead also does not have a fumble in the NFL.

The Bears have held seven opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards and have won all of those games.

With cold, windy weather forecast at Soldier Field Sunday, the Patriots will want to get a run game going, but the Bears will make it tough. If Green-Ellis and Woodhead can find room to run like they have this season, that will open up the passing game for Brady and it would mean problems for Chicago's defense. But making the Patriots one-dimensional by shutting down the run could give the Bears a needed advantage in Sunday's big game.

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