FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Laurence Maroney caught the pass in the left flat, put a nifty fake on the would-be tackler then raced up the sideline for a touchdown in a rout of Green Bay.

The Patriots rookie rarely, if ever, did that before because “I didn’t catch too many passes in college.”

It won’t be easy to do it again Sunday even if he gets the chance because New England will be playing against the Chicago Bears, the team that has allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL.

Maroney’s speed, shiftiness and power have resulted in an outstanding season. His 577 yards rushing are 12th most in the AFC and he already has 14 receptions after totaling just 21 in three seasons at Minnesota.

But his best games have come against Buffalo, Cincinnati and Green Bay, who have three of the worst defenses. Certainly, Chicago (9-1) should be a better measuring stick of his ability.

Maroney isn’t so sure.

“Every game you’re supposed to go out there and you’ve got something to prove,” he said Tuesday. “You just show everybody what you can do. I don’t look at this game as too much different.”

The Bears are ranked 10th against the rush but have been vulnerable to it, allowing three different runners to gain at least 100 yards in consecutive games before breaking the streak in last Sunday’s 10-0 win over the New York Jets.

But they probably haven’t seen many moves like the one Maroney put on Nick Barnett, the Packers’ second leading tackler, when the Patriots (7-3) won 35-0 last Sunday at Green Bay.

In the fourth quarter, Maroney drifted out of the backfield and caught Tom Brady’s pass at the Green Bay 21-yard line. Barnett loomed in front of him. Maroney then dipped his head inside, threw Barnett off balance and cut outside and into the end zone without being touched for the final touchdown.

“It was a great move,” Maroney said quietly. “Once I saw him go flatfooted I knew that I can fake any way. He’s going to go for it because he’s flatfooted. He’s got to go for a fake.”

If he tries that Sunday, he’d better keep a tight grip on the ball. The Bears lead the NFL with 14 fumble recoveries.

“They’re very aggressive,” Patriots left tackle Matt Light said. “The middle of their (defensive) line is one of the best in the league, if not the best. And you know that they’re very turnover driven.

“You’ve got to understand that you probably can’t block them all day and there’s going to be a lot of big play opportunities and we’ve just got to go out there and match their aggressive style.”

That might be easier on the new FieldTurf surface the Patriots installed after their last home game on Nov. 12 when heavy rain turned some of the natural turf into mud, a problem all season. The new field was in place Tuesday and workmen were painting the Patriots name and logo in one end zone.

“It looks green. That’s a little different,” Light said. “There’d be definitely times where there’s some holes that we were putting our feet in and it was pretty nasty out there. But I think, overall, most of that comes down to the guys that are making the cuts.”

Guys like Maroney.

He played more than he usually does at Green Bay because starter Corey Dillon missed some of the game with an arm injury suffered when he scored in the second quarter. Maroney’s 82 yards rushing were his third most of the season.

“It was a good win,” Maroney said. “You try not to dwell on it too much. You put it behind you. You’ve just got to get ready for the Bears.”


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