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Patriots Down Steelers 17-14, Game Observations

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
2 weeks ago at 7:04 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots Down Steelers 17-14, Game ObservationsCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots prevailed in a tough, hard-fought win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 in the newly named Acrisure Stadium. It was the Patriots’ first win of the year and a much-needed confidence boost for the team, especially the offense, after a rough opening weekend in Miami. 

But once again, the defense looked very good, allowing just one touchdown and just 243 yards of offense. Last week, the defense allowed just one touchdown against Miami, and they didn’t get much credit, if you watched what unfolded in Baltimore, perhaps they deserve more credit for their effort. 

But back to the offense, Nelson Agholor had 105 receiving yards on six catches, including a great play for a 44-yard touchdown right before the half. (more below) It was the 6th 100-yard game of his career and the first for the team since December 2020, when Jakobi Meyers had 111 yards against the Dolphins. Meyers ended up with 9 catches for 95 yards.

Other Observations Include: 

Yes, Virginia, The Patriots DO Have an Offensive Line: 

What a turnaround for the much-maligned (and deservedly so) offensive line. After struggling all summer and in Week 1, the offensive line overall turned in a very solid performance. 

Mac Jones was not sacked once and was hit just three times after getting banged up in Miami. This was the same Steelers defense that forced five turnovers and sacked Joe Burrow seven times last week on the road. While the Steelers were without T.J. Watt, the rest of the defense was there and intact. 

Cole Strange played a very strong game and was matched up frequently against Cameron Heyward, who had 0 sacks, 0 QB hits, and 0 tackles for loss (TFL). Alex Highsmith, who had 3 sacks a week ago, was held to 1 QB hit and one TFL. 

The running game, prior to Mac Jones’ three kneel-downs, had 133 yards on 28 carries for an impressive 4.75-yard average. 

But most impressive was the way they finished. The Patriots got the ball on their own 30-yard line with 6:33 left in the game after the teams traded punts twice. The Patriots went on a 13-play, 71-yard drive that killed the entire clock. The drive consisted of 12 runs and 1 pass. The Steelers knew that they wanted to run, and the offensive line ran the ball down their throats. It was a very impressive way to seal the deal. 

Mac Jones Was Good, But Not Great:

Jones played well enough facing the tough Steelers defense. He passed for 252 yards, completing 21-35 on the day (60 percent), spreading the ball around to six targets. He had one interception where Minkah Fitzpatrick came over from his free safety position and picked off a deep ball to DeVante Parker. He nearly threw another.

However, his 44-yard TD to Agholor was the 2nd longest TD of his career. Last October, he connected with Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard score against the Cowboys in Gillette Stadium. 

After taking some heavy shots last week, getting X-Rays after the game, and missing Thursday’s practice with an illness, today was a nice baby step forward for Jones and the offense. Scoring 17 points won’t win many games, but it was a small but important step in improving. There remains much work to do, but today, it was good enough.

Patriots’ Defense Held Struggling Pittsburgh Offense Down:

Steelers QB Mitch Trubiski was hearing the boo birds and calls for rookie QB Kenny Pickett during the game as he struggled again to get anything going offensively. Trubiski completed 21-33 for just 168 yards. The defense sacked him three times, had three QB hits, three TFLs, and had six passes defensed.

While no one is confusing Trubiski with an upper-tier QB, the defense did what they had to do overall and kept them in check for most of the day. Najee Harris carried the ball 15 times for 49 yards, averaging just 3.3 yards on the day. Diontae Johnson was targeted 10 times and had 6 catches for 57 yards. Chase Claypool, who received a lot of respect from Bill Belichick this week, had just 4 receptions for 26 yards. 

The secondary did their job. On the Patriots interception, Trubiski didn’t see Mack Wilson taking the deep drop in the middle, and he deflected the pass that Jalen Mills picked off and returned 13 yards.

Matt Patricia’s Play Calling:

The offense gained 376 yards of total offense in the game against a Pittsburgh defense, an increase of over 100 yards from the week before.  There were times when it seemed that he didn’t mix things up enough, but as he gets into the ebb and flow of game situations, hopefully, those calls will improve. But this game was a step forward.

They seemed to simplify things and went back to mainly power football, and the offensive line responded. If you’re going to bash Patricia for last week, as we did here, then one has to admit, this was a good showing. 

The offense even mixed in some wide zone concepts that they struggled with all summer. And they were working. Damien Harris led the way with 15 carries for 71 yards and a TD, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Rhamondre Stevenson carried 9 times for 47 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

  • Robert Kraft celebrated his 500th game as owner of the Patriots
  • Special Teams nearly had a disaster with Myles Bryant muffing a punt in the end zone. Pittsburgh did with Gunner Olszewski having a punt bounce off his face mask and was recovered by Brenden Schooler.
  • On the punt mentioned above, it appeared that Schooler was left alone on the left side of the line in a bust by the Steelers.
  • Kyle Dugger had a 37-yard KO return, and Pierre Strong, in his first NFL game, had two KO returns for 48. 
  • Nick Folk tied the NFL record for consecutive FGs under 50 yards with his 56th in a row. He later missed a 52-yarder. 
  • Harris, Dugger, and Ju’Whaun Bentley were injured in the game, those will bear watching as the Ravens come into town. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Chase Claypool Damien Harris Diontae Johnson Jakobi Meyers Mac Jones Matthew Judon Mitch Trubiski Najee Harris Nelson Agholor New England Patriots NFL Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers

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