CHICAGO - Bad weather didn't bother Tom Brady. The big, bad Bears didn't, either.

He was cool as ever on a snowy, blustery, bone-chilling day, unfazed by the elements and not quite ready to pop the champagne after the New England Patriots locked up another playoff spot.

They're in it for the eighth time in 10 years after a 36-7 dismantling of the Chicago Bears yesterday, on a day in which Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns despite the harsh conditions.

"There's a long way to go," he said. "I don't think anything's really been accomplished yet. I don't think we've got every problem solved. There are plenty of defenses that have kicked us around this year. We don't sit in here and think we've got it all figured out."

So he wasn't ready to celebrate. Nor was coach Bill Belichick.

"Good, we got to keep playing," he said. "I'm pretty sure when the end of the season comes, someone will tell us what we need to do."

The win was the fifth straight for the Patriots (11-2), and this one was no less impressive than their 45-3 rout of the New York Jets last Monday night.

They wasted little time blowing it open, grabbing a 33-0 halftime lead and sending Belichick to his 174th career win. That put him in a tie for 10th place with Mike Holmgren.

Brady picked apart the league's third-ranked defense, completing 27 of 40 passes with no interceptions for the eighth straight game. And the Patriots increased their lead in the AFC East to two over the Jets.

"It was a chess match, and he said check mate," Bears safety Chris Harris said.

Deion Branch caught eight passes for a career-high 151 yards, including a 59-yard TD at the end of the first half. Wes Welker had eight catches for 115 yards and the Patriots totaled 475 yards while holding Chicago to 185.

The Bears (9-4) had won five straight, but they were no match for the team that came in tied for the league's best record.

Chicago is still a game ahead of Green Bay in the division, but came out flat with a chance to widen its lead and join the league's elite.

"It happens from time to time, especially against a good football team, but then you go back and this game counts as one loss, no more than that," coach Lovie Smith said. "We went into this game against the Patriots in first place in our division and we still are. We just have to take care of business from here on out."