Some observations from the final quarter:
- New England stopped the Steelers to start the fourth quarter, with the Steelers increasing their edge to 23-10 thanks to a 23 yard field goal by Pittsburgh. Â That field goal came after an 11-play drive by drive for the Steelers, which once again gave them a 30+ minute edge in time of possession. Â With 11:26 to go in the game Pittsburgh has held the ball for 34:13 compared to just 14:21 for New England.
Brady really never had a chance to get the offense going on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
- On their next drive Tom Brady missed a wide open Taylor Price, with Brady not leading him out far enough after Price got behind his man. Â Instead the ball was knocked away and fell incomplete.
- Chad Ochocinco saw the first deep ball (and target for that matter) thrown his way in a while, with Brady overthrowing him a few plays later, but he was still well covered.
- The drive ended on a 3rd and 8 on their own 40 yard line, where the Steelers’ defense was all over them. Â Kevin Faulk lost six yards on a flip from Brady on the play after he was under incredible duress. Â It was a complete train wreck of a play, and Faulk was called for a ‘chop block’ penalty, which was declined. Â The Patriots ended up punting it away.
- At that point New England’s defense was completely gassed, allowing Pittsburgh to once again work their way down the field and eat up clock. Â On the drive the Steelers started running the ball, putting together runs of 18, 2, and 5 yards before Roethlisberger threw incomplete at New England’s 26. Â Pittsburgh fortunately missed the field goal, and the Patriots got the ball with 6:03 to go in the game.
- Troy Polamalu nearly took Wes Welker’s head off on the first play from scrimmage, with Polamalu wrapping him up high and ripping him down by his head and shoulder. Â Unfortunately no penalty was called.
- Brady went to the two minute offense, and drove them down down to the Steelers 4-yard line, but a false start by Sebastian Vollmer – their fourth false start penalty of the game – backed them up to the 9 yard line. Â On the next play Brady hit Rob Gronkowski a the one yard line, which replays later showed was a touchdown. Â That was a key play because that happened with just over 4-minutes left in the game.
- New England hurried up on the next play on third down only to have Kevin Faulk get hit at the goal line and then got knocked back three yards.
- On the next play the Steelers appeared to have picked it off, but the refs called Pittsburgh for offensive holding which gave New England new life, and on the next play Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for the touchdown to cut the lead to 23-17 with 2:35 left in the game. The bad news was that thanks to the officials missing the initial call when Gronkowski scored earlier, New England essentially lost two minutes.
- They tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Stephen Gostkowski topped the ball and it failed to advance far enough for New England to have a shot at recovering. Â That continued their streak of unsuccessful attempts during the Bill Belichick era, dating all the way back to 1994, which came in a playoff game against Belichick’sÂ Browns that season.
- The Steelers drove down to the New England 28, and on a 3rd and 1 play Pittsburgh did just enough to convert despite a strong effort on New England’s defense to try and stop them.
- Brady got one final shot with :19 seconds left, but even he couldn’t pull off a miracle in that amount of time. Â On the play Brady had the ball knocked out of his hands and then the Steelers defense knocked it out to the back of the endzone for what would eventuall be called a safety. Â That put an exclamation point on what was clearly a frustrating afternoon for the Patriots.
- The final score was 25-17 win by Pittsburgh. Â Brady had a strong outing, finishing 24-of-35 for 197 yards along with two touchdowns, but simply never saw enough time on the field to get New England’s offense going after the Steelers held the ball for nearly 40-minutes.
Some final numbers:
- Pittsburgh finished Sunday’s game 10-of-15 (67%) on third down, along with 29 total first downs. Â The Steelers also didn’t punt for the first time until there was :28 seconds left in the game.
- Tom Brady finished 24-of-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and was sacked three times. Â Meanwhile Ben Roethlisberger finished 36-of-50 for 365 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Â For the second straight game New England sacked him five times, but obviously it wasn’t enough to stop them.
- Kevin Faulk finished with 5 catches for 20 yards, and 6 carries for 32 yards in his first game back with New England.
- Rob Gronkowski finished as New England’s leading receiver, catching 7 passes for 94 yards.
- Wes Welker was held in check by Pittsburgh, finishing with 6 grabs for 39 yards.
We’ll have more in a bit, including all the postgame comments as well as some analysis to follow.