Here’s the best and worst of the Patriots win over the Steelers Sunday night.
Gary Guyton – Guyton had a big night, and it started from the first defensive series of the game. He knocked down Ben Roethlisberger’s first pass attempt, and on their second drive, he also had a sack. It was a good effort by the Patriots linebacker.
Rob Gronkowski – The rookie tight end caught three touchdowns and accounted for 38 of the 70 yards on the opening drive for the New England. He finished with 5 catches for 72 yards on the night, and definitely should be feeling much better about how this week went. Gronkowski did have one mistake – he pushed off on a 4th and 6 play before the end of the half. Instead of converting and potentially getting points, the were forced to punt. Thankfully that didn’t come back to haunt them.
Jerod Mayo – Mayo again was a big force defensively, finishing with nine tackles and appeared to be all over the field. He continues to be a solid linebacker in this defense.
Patrick Chung – Chung made his return to the line-up Sunday night for the first time since suffering a knee injury a couple of weeks ago. His impact seemed to be felt by every one of his teammates, and Chung stepped up and played incredibly well. He was everywhere, making tackles including a play where he completely blew up Steelers receiver Mike Wallace on Pittsburgh’s third drive. He also made a hit which forced the deflection to James Sanders, who returned it for a touchdown.
James Sanders – Sanders returned an interception for a touchdown thanks to Chung and had a respectable effort. He got beat late in this one for a touchdown after they clearly weren’t playing their normal coverages, but overall he had a good night.
Mike Wright – Finished the night with 1.5 sacks, and did a good job against the run as well.
Tully Banta-Cain – Only had a couple of tackles in this one, but both were sacks. He finished with one full sack, along with a half a sack on Roethlisberger.
Brandon Tate – Is starting to move into a role of a potential deep threat. He caught a 45-yard pass from Brady Sunday night, and probably would have had a long touchdown catch had Brady lead him more to the left – but instead it got knocked away.
Kyle Arrington – Played well Sunday night. Arrington was once again good in coverage but also made a huge tackle on the ensuing kickoff following Brady’s TD run. Belichick likes guys who can also perform well on special teams. For now Arrington has done a good job solidifying the other cornerback position opposite rookie Devin McCourty.
Devin McCourty – McCourty played well overall Sunday night. He finished with his highest tackle total of the season (9) tied with Mayo and got tagged for a pass interference penalty that wasn’t his fault. His man got leveled by Vince Wilfork, who got in the way of his guy and broke up the route.
Tom Brady – Threw three touchdown passes to Gronkowksi and also ran for one. But the biggest moment for the night was when he got fired up after his team had built a 10-0 lead over the the Steelers, trying to implore them to cut down the mistakes. It worked, and the Patriots played much better from then on. He finished 30-of-43 for 350 yards and no interceptions, with a QB rating of 117.4.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Green-Ellis had a good night running the ball against a Steelers team that was supposed to be impervious to any running game. He finished with 18 carries for 87 yards (4.8avg), with Belichick saying after the game that they “ran the ball competitively”. His low point of the night was the fact he had a chop block, which cost New England 15-yards to move them back to a 2nd and 23 instead of a 2nd and 8 where they had gained 7-yards on the play. It likely cost them a potential touchdown, and forced a field goal attempt by Graham.
Wes Welker – Finished with 8 catches for 89-yards, which is his best performance all season. Welker said after the game that he could have had 10 had he not dropped one and not made another.
Deion Branch – Lost in this one was Branch’s performance, with the veteran receiver catching 7 balls for 71-yards. It appears his hamstring is feeling better, which is good news. They’ll need him next Sunday.
Brandon Spikes – Spikes got blocked out by Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller on the 34-yard run, then loses his man on the scramble by Roethlisberger for a 18 yard completion. Finshed with two tackles on the night.
Jermaine Cunningham – Cunningham was called for lining up in the neutral zone after Chung forced an incompletion. Fortunately Chung stepped up again and forced another incomplete pass and they held them to a field goal.
Brandon Meriweather – Was called for a pass interference penalty, a 38-yard penalty no less. The contact appeared to be incidental, but he should have known better.
NOTES: Patriots won the toss, and elected to defer to the second half, which ended up being a key strategy. They came out and scored seven, which made the score 17-3 and put the pressure on the Steelers…Shayne Graham’s first kickoff was down to the goal line, not a bad leg – although not as high as Gostkowski’s. Unfortunately he’ll be reminded about the extra point he’d remember. Tom Brady threw his 240th career touchdown, moved him ahead of Len Dawson 16th all-time….Brady’s rushing touchdown was also his 7th of his career….The Patriots held the Steelers to just 12-net yards through the first quarter…For the Steelers their last home loss by 7 or more had been in ’06 for Pittsburgh (8:00 minute mark)….. Great stat: Rob Gronkowski became the first rookie in Patriots history to finish with 3 touchdowns in a game… Sanders interception returned for a touchdown is New England’s 3rd Pick 6 of season, and 12th time in franchise history that they have had at least 3 pick 6’s….Shawn Crable combined for two tackles – and also finished with 0.5 a sack.