By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (5-2) on Sunday were completely dominated in all phases of the game including coaching, and there really isn’t much positive to say about the 25-17 loss against the Steelers (6-2) at Heinz Field.
The shocking part of the score is that it really doesn’t measure how the Patriots were taken apart for 4 quarters. It is amazing that they came close to putting themselves in position to possibly win the game at the very end.
From the first drive of the game for the Steelers, it was obvious that their offense had no issues with the Patriots defense. They moved at will and were in complete control, and the Patriots defense simply had no answers for the Steelers passing game.
The Patriots were fighting from behind the entire afternoon. However, they only trailed by a touchdown at the half, and even though they had been thoroughly dominated, they would have another half of football to make amends.
Unfortunately, the second half was as bad as the first as the Steelers continued to control the ball on offense, and also made things uncomfortable for Tom Brady when they were on defense.
The Patriots hung in there, and had an opportunity late to get the ball back to Brady and potentially win the game. However, and onside kick was badly executed, and Brady would eventually only see the ball again with very little time left on the clock.
This was a tough team loss that has plenty of blame to go around. This wasn’t just about the defense and the problems they had. The loss is on all 45 players that played, including the coaching staff.
So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?
The first thing we learned is that the Steelers were able to change things up and had great game-plans on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Steelers took advantage of the Patriots secondary and feasted in the middle of the field. The defense changed it up and played a tough man defense against the Patriots receivers. The Patriots had no answers for the Steelers game-plans.
The second thing we learned is that the Patriots secondary needs to make dramatic improvement over these final 9 games. This secondary right now is awful, and if the Patriots want to go deep into the play-offs this unit needs to get better as the season progresses.
The third thing we learned is that the Patriots coaching staff needs to make quicker adjustments on both sides of the ball. I am used to a Bill Belichick coaching staff being able to make adjustments on the fly. Sunday really showed how much the Patriots really miss Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennell. They continue to be bigger losses than anyone wants to admit.
On offense, the Patriots had a very tough time countering the tough man coverage the Steelers were using. Brady was 24-of-35 for 195 yards, and 2 touchdowns, but the Steelers really limited his play. He had a tough time finding open receivers, and was harassed the majority of the game.
On defense, the Patriots were never able to slow down Ben Roethlisberger. He was 36-of-50 for 365 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He picked the Patriots defense apart as tight end Heath Miller had a huge first half, and the other wide receivers also put up some big numbers throughout the contest.
New England’s defense was horrible on third down, and this statistic will tell you all you need to know about their performance. The Steelers were 10-of-16, which is a 62.5 per cent conversion rate. If you cannot get off the field on third down, you are probably going to lose. This statistic really shows a good reason why the Patriots lost to the Steelers.
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 and below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Steelers.”
1. The Patriots need to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. I thought the Patriots did a decent job in getting pressure on the quarterback. They ended with 5 sacks, and were around Roethlisberger often. However, it seemed like Brandon Spikes was often just a half a second late. This performance was not bad, but can be better moving forward.
2. The Patriots need to contain tight end Heath Miller. As I watched Miller receive catch after catch in the first quarter, I kept thinking about this key I wrote about prior. He extended drives often on third down, and was just huge in the first half. He had 7 receptions for 85 yards, and was a definite factor in the Steelers victory.
3. The Patriots offensive line needs to do a much better job in protecting Tom Brady. This is now 3 games in a row that the Patriots offensive line has done a poor job protecting Brady. Sebastian Vollmer coming off of an injury should not have played. He got abused by LaMarr Woodley as he had 2 sacks, and pressured Brady often. There was constant pressure on the Patriots quarterback.
4. The Patriots need to take shots down the field in the passing game. The Patriots did take shots down the field. Unfortunately all attempts to go long were poorly executed either by Brady or the receivers. Chad Ochocinco looked horrible on one long pass.
Aaron Hernandez was more or less invisible on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
5. The tight ends need to exploit the middle of the field. The Steelers did a nice job containing the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski had a decent game, but his catches came more late in the second half. He had 7 receptions for 94 yards. Aaron Hernandez was invisible the majority of the game, and only had 2 receptions.
So what did we learn from this game? I think we learned that the Patriots are not perfect, and are going to occasionally have bad games like this over the course of this season, and this happened to be one of those games against the Steelers. They were horrible in every phase of the game.
Now, there are reasons to be concerned moving forward, but there is no reason to make an overall judgment on the 2011 Patriots based on this game. We are only 7 games into the season, and I think you witnessed the Patriots at their worst, yet they only lost by 8 points.
The NFL season is long, and we aren’t even half-way through it yet. If some of the bad play continues to show itself as we get into December, I will change my tune. Until then, I will give credit to where it is due, and this game had more to do with a fine performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the Patriots 25-17 loss against the Steelers.