By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots came away with a huge victory on the road in Pittsburgh 39-26 Sunday night, but the score does not indicate how dominant the Patriots were against the Steelers. They held Pittsburgh to just 12 first half yards while the Patriots offense and defense stepped up against a team that many experts thought were the best team in the league.
So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?
I think the first thing we learned is that Tom Brady really does “own” the Steelers. Brady and the offense had their way with a defense that was arguably the best in the NFL. One concern going into the game was that they could potentially pressure Brady and make his life difficult, but instead Brady had all the time in the world to throw. He was able to stand back and pick the Steelers secondary apart, and that allowed New England’s offense to score at will later in the game. They scored 29 points in the second half and Dick Lebeau, the Steelers Defensive coordinator, had no answers on how to stop Brady.
Mike Wright had a solid night, finishing with 1.5 sacks on Roethlisberger (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
I think we also saw a defense that really got after Ben Roethlisberger and contained the Steelers offense when it was needed. Don’t let the statistics fool you in this game. The Patriots defense played very well and we also learned that Patrick Chung is an impact player for this young Patriots defense. Chung had 10 tackles, but was also vital in both stopping the run and in passing situations. He actually helped in the interception for James Sanders by making the deflection. Chung could eventually be as valuable as Bob Sanders used to be for the Colts.
I said this a couple of weeks ago, but I think overall we learned that the Patriots are for real. The Pats deserved to be thought of as one of the best teams in the league, and the best thing about this club is that I feel they are only going to get better as many young players are still developing.
The Steelers are still an elite team in the NFL. They just had a bad game against the Patriots. On offense, the Steelers were only able to run for 76 yards. Roethlisberger had huge statistics with 387 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Unfortunately, many of his best moments of this game came when the Patriots were up by multiple touchdowns.
On defense, this unit really failed against the Pats. Brady had all day to throw the ball, and he really had no problem finding his receivers. The Steelers, who are known for their run defense, gave up 103 yards on the ground to New England. This unit was shockingly bad for the Steelers.
For the Patriots, the offense and the defense were both able to control the Steelers units. On offense, Brady threw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 87 yards with a 4.8 yards per carry average, and this unit had their way for most of the evening.
The Patriots defense pressured Roethlisberger in the passing game, sacking him five times and limited the Steelers running backs from having a big day. This unit was flying around, and making plays the maority of the game. Did they give up yardage? The defense gave up their share of yards, but when the game was on the line they played well and were able to close it out.
This Patriots victory really showed the development of a team that is continuing to improve. They are also an elite team in the NFL, and are certainly for real. Sunday’s test against the Colts should let us get a look at how this young group can fare against the likes of Peyton Manning, who will definitely be looking to exploit any opening they give him.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Steelers “.
1. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. The Pats did succeed in this key. It was only one interception of Roethlisberger, but Sanders took the pick to the house and scored a touchdown. The bigger news is the Patriots did not turnover the ball.
2. Patrick Chung needs to make an impact in stopping the run. Chung was very active against the Steelers. You often saw him come up, and help stop the run. He was good in coverage and made a couple of big hits, and his presence was certainly felt.
3. The Patriots need to keep Roethlisberger in the pocket. I thought the Pats did a decent job in containing him. Late in the game he was able to get out of the pocket, and make several big plays. However, again when it counted the Pats defense really kept him in check. You could tell that the defense was making a special effort to not let him get outside. He is an elite quarterback, and he was able to have his moments. However, all he had were moments, and overall the defense did their job against the Steelers quarterback.
4. The Patriots need to go to a spread formation on offense along with a no huddle. The Patriots offense really clicked against the Steelers. They dictated the game, and Brady did work a good amount from the spread formation. Rob Gronkowski had a huge game with 3 touchdown receptions. Most important was the fact that Brady was really able to spread the ball to all of his recievers. Everyone was involved, and it was a dominant performance.
5. Shayne Graham needs to have strong kick-offs . Graham in my opinion was not great on Sunday. His kick-offs were short of the goal-line, and helped set up great field position for the Steelers. He also missed an extra point. They’re used to the production that Stephen Gostkowksi gave them, and he’ll need better kick-offs and will definitely need to be able to kick an extra point if he plans on being the kicker long term over the rest of the season.
So what did we learn from this game? Ultimately we saw a team that is a legitimate contender in the playoffs. This is the time of the year when you need to be getting ready to play your best football, and the Patriots are continuing to improve at the time when they really need to. The most important thing we learned is that this is a quarterback driven league, and the Pats I think have best in the NFL in Brady. You always have a chance to do something special when you have #12 calling the signals.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 39-26 victory against the Steelers.