Report Card: Patriots Not Up to the Test in Pittsburgh

Derek Havens
October 31, 2011 at 09:00am ET

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The Patriots came out of the bye week with a 5 - 1 record and were off to a solid start, but they played their worst game in recent memory on Sunday afternoon. The team's 25 - 17 loss in Pittsburgh was a tough one to swallow for Patriots Nation. After such a disappointing loss, there is certainly a lot to digest and discuss. Here is my report card for week 8. -

Bill Belichick is left with more questions than answers after Sunday's 25 - 17 loss in Pittsburgh. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Offense Grade: D+

When you have a team like the Patriots, and are built around the offense, that unit has to carry the squad. Unfortunately for the Patriots faithful, that was not the case on yesterday. The offensive line was man-handled on several occasions by a physical Steelers defense. New England could not establish the running game and the lack of balance hurt the team throughout the game.

Tom Brady played ok, but missed a few throws that should have been completed; I thought this may have been in result of the line's subpar protection. Chad Ochocinco and Taylor Price continue to be non-factors in the offense, and the receivers seemed to struggle to find separation in Pittsburgh's secondary. The fact the offense only had the ball for 20 minutes should also be taken into consideration.

Defense Grade: C-

Yes, this grade is only a C-, as I am sure many of you would have thought the grade would have been lower. Like I previously mentioned, this is an offensive driven team. I do not expect the defense to be elite, but I would like to see them make some stops when it counts. The unit was on the field for nearly the entire game and there were certainly a good amount of mistakes.

I thought the tackling, again, needs to improve immediately. For whatever reason, the defense has more success stopping third and short, rather than third and long.

In terms of coverage - When you play a soft zone, there will eventually be holes if the pressure does not reach the quarterback in time. The pressure was better, but Pittsburgh spread the defense out and got rid of the ball quickly. I would have liked to see the defensive backs move up and play more physical against the Steelers receivers.

I was, however, pleased with the pass rush. The defensive line was one of the few bright spots on Sunday. Bottom line, however, this unit needs to improve if the team wishes to make a title run.

Special Teams Grade: D+

Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal at the end of the second half, but missed a critical 42-yard try as well as a failed onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter. Those two missed opportunities hurt the teams chance to make a late game comeback.

I also thought the coverage on the Steelers returns was poor and the team continues to get very little out of their return men. Special teams is often a bigger factor in games than some people realize, and the team has been struggling in this phase of the game lately.

Overall Grade: D+

Overall, the Patriots have a ton of work to do and are not playing well enough to go deep into the playoffs – plain and simple. However, it is easy to be reactionary after the team losses such a a tough game, but there is no need to lose hope. There is still nine weeks left in the season and the Pats have time to improve.

Keep in mind, I do not believe the Patriots could have played much worse and only lost by one score. There is still nine weeks of NFL action to play and the season does not end with this loss.

Hopefully the Patriots learn from this game and fix many of their problems as the season progresses. New England returns home next week to face the New York Giants. Further analysis on this contest and my pre-game thoughts for week 9 will be posted later in the week.

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