By: Ian Logue
Last season against the Steelers, it was Tom Brady and the Patriots who built a 23-3 3rd quarter advantage en-route to a 39-26 win over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
Brady and the Patriots will have to try and come home and prepare to bounce back next weekend against the Giants. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
In that contest they were the ones imposing their will and dictating the tempo of the football game. Obviously the Steelers took a good long look at what happened that night, and they were much more prepared for Sunday’s rematch.
The result? A 25-17 loss to a Steelers team that really seemed to want this one.
Pittsburgh came out and completely dictated the pace of the game, hitting hard and playing physical all afternoon, and it started early on. Pittsburgh dominated the entire first quarter in time of possession, holding the ball for 13:36, while New England had the ball for all of 1:24.
During that quarter the Patriots offense ran just 3 plays, while the Steelers offense had two drives of 11 and 15 plays. As the game went on and the deficit grew, it put the Patriots in the position of having to play from behind, and that played right into Pittsburgh’s hands.
“I mean we never really played the game with the lead,” said Brady, who finished 24-of-35 for a season low 198 yards passing. “We never really played the game on our terms. I think they played very well defensively. They have a lot of great players over there. A great scheme, great coaching. We give them, certainly, a lot of credit and we understand that if we play like that, we’re not going to beat many people at all.”
This biggest area that New England’s offense struggled with was the fact they couldn’t convert on third down. They were just 3-of-10 on third down Sunday, and couldn’t match what Pittsburgh was doing. The Steelers had very little problem moving the ball, and played so well that their punter didn’t take the field until there was just :28 left in the game.
Pittsburgh had five drives of more than 10 plays, which allowed them to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands and kept him on the sideline for nearly 40 minutes.
When asked if Brady was frustrated by not being able to get on the field, he took part of the blame since it’s the offense’s job to give the defense a break after spending those drives trying to get the Steelers off the field.
“Well I mean you always want to be out there,” said Brady. “The defense is busting their butt to get them off the field. Like I said, we’ve got to compliment them as well. So if they go on a long drive, we can’t go in there and go three and out like we did.
“We’ve got to do a better job with that. Look, it’s a good football team, we played them on the road. There’s not much margin of error when you play a good team on the road, and we certainly made plenty of errors.”
It was a huge change from the game that saw Brady miss just 7 passes and rack up 350 yards when they battled them last year in a Sunday night game. When asked if there was something different Pittsburgh did this time around, Brady said they simply didn’t match the Steelers’ intensity.
“No, they run a lot of the same stuff every week and I just don’t think we did a good job handling it or adjusting to it, or playing against it,” said Brady. “I thought they were very physical and we didn’t really match their physical style. We gotta run the ball better, we gotta throw the ball better, we’ve got to execute better all the way around.”
Now they’ll come home and prepare to take on the Giants next Sunday in Foxboro, but Brady knows that clearly what transpired in Pittsburgh can’t happen when they take the field next weekend. However the Patriots signal caller says they’ll keep fighting, and he expects his teammates to bounce back.
“We kept fighting to the end, which we always do,” said Brady. “We’re always going to fight to the end. We’ve got a lot of mentally tough guys and a lot of guys with very high character in our locker room and we’re just going to keep battling.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for themselves. It’s the seventh game of the year, there’s so much football left. Obviously we just didn’t play our best.”