Patriots Week 2 Report Card In 17-14 Win Over Pittsburgh
Week 2 of the Patriots season and the 500th game of Robert Kraft’s ownership of the team took them to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
The team found a way to grind out a tough defensive win, but Bill Belichick spent more time with the offense on the sideline talking with Mac Jones and new offensive coaches, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. And he did this while the defense was on the field…to quote a line from “The Princess Bride,” INCONCEIVABLE!
But while the offense still doesn’t look like a juggernaut or a well-oiled machine, the operation was a heckuva lot better than a week ago. The team moved the ball most of the game. And it seemed like, other than the goal line touchdown by Damien Harris, the Patriots stayed in 11 personnel all game.
The defense played well and held the Steelers to just 243 total yards; Najee Harris was only able to grind out 49 yards on 15 carries, only a 3.3-yard average. The team got three sacks, three QB hits, three TFLs, and six passes defensed. They allowed just one offensive touchdown.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Steelers game.
As I wrote in my postgame observations, Mac Jones was good but not great and certainly wasn’t bad. He made one mistake when he failed to account for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and his former teammate at Alabama picked him off easily. He nearly had another bad pick, but it was dropped. He made some other mistakes as well.
But he was doing a good job of setting his protection for the offensive line and made adjustments at the line when he recognized what the Steelers were doing defensively. He made some nice throws on third-down crossers and took what was there for the taking. He also had a really nice scramble for a first down on the Patriots final drive. His deep ball to Nelson Agholor for the 44-yard touchdown was placed where he gave him a chance to compete for the ball (more to that below).
Jones was 21 of 35 for 252 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. It was a good building block type of game where it looks like the offense is finally starting to figure things out.
Running Backs: B+
The running game was led by Damien Harris; once again, he had 71 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and chipped in with two receptions for 16 yards.
Rhamondre (who the Steelers announcers couldn’t pronounce, Stevenson had 47 yards on nine carries (5.2-yard average) and had a catch for 4 yards. His best play and a great call, BTW (Gasp!), was a 3rd and 7 draw play where he picked up the first down.
The New England duo were at their best on the team’s final drive.
Wide Receivers: B+
Nelson Agholor had a big game, catching six passes for 110 yards, his first 100-yard game as a Patriot and the first one for the team since Jakobi Meyers had 111 against Miami in December 2020. His touchdown showed tremendous concentration as he and Ahkello Witherspoon went up for the ball, and he was able to wrest it away for the score.
It was easily his best game in a Patriot, and he caught a pass every time he was targeted yesterday. Jakobi Meyers nearly matched Agholor with nine catches for 95 yards on 13 targets. He is Mac Jones’ security blanket, and their chemistry continues to grow.
However, Devante Parker (0/0/2 targets) continues to struggle, and Jones’ interception was on a deep pass to him. Parker said after the game that it was a timing issue. But he got confused on a call, resulting in a penalty for delay of the game. Kendrick Bourne played 22 snaps and had two catches for 16 yards. Lil Jordan Humphrey chipped in with one catch for 11 yards.
Tight Ends: D
Jonnu Smith (3) and Hunter Henry (1) were only targeted four times and had zero production. That is unacceptable from both a production and usage standpoint. However, the pair did a solid job of blocking in the running game.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line had a much, much better game this week. Mac Jones wasn’t sacked and was only hit 3 times. This is the same Pittsburgh defense that forced five turnovers and sacked Joe Burrows seven times last week. I know; I’ve heard it dozens of times since yesterday, “But dey didn’t have TJ Waht!” Granted, Watt is a great player, but the Steelers’ defense is hardly a one-man show.
Other than Mac Jones kneel-downs, the OL opened up holes for the running backs to rush for 133 yards on 28 carries, a 4.75-yard average. Against a very tough Steelers front seven, that is impressive. Cole Strange had a very strong game, going against Cameron Heyward.
In my postgame report, I wrote, “But most impressive was how 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 one 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.”
Brian Baldinger wrote on his Twitter account that “This is Masterpiece Theatre. Game balls to the offense! #BaldysBreakdowns”
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive line was very good again; Christian Barmore picked up a sack, and Deatrich Wise is off to a really good start this season. He’s been disruptive and an all-around pain in the …neck for the opposing offense.
While the Steelers ended up with 91 yards rushing, 18 came courtesy of a Gunner Olszewski end-around. Otherwise, their average rush attempt would have netted just 3.5 yards and 73 yards overall. Lawrence Guy was solid
Very good game overall, however, Davon Godchaux was injured, and we’ll have to see how that plays out this week.
Matthew Judon logged another sack where he chased down Trubiski before the half. He also dropped into coverage with Harris and broke up a deep pass. Jahlani Tavai had his first sack as a Patriot.
This year the Patriots made moves to get more athletic and fast at linebacker. Those attributes were on full display yesterday. Mack Wilson dropped into coverage and, seeing where Trubiski was going, went all out and deflected the ball…right into Jalen Mills’ hands.
The Patriots’ secondary had a good day; they held Diontae Johnson to just 57 yards on six catches and Chase Claypool to 26 yards on four catches. But more importantly, the secondary provided tight coverage that allowed nearly no YAC.
Kyle Dugger was given the task of covering Pat Freiermuth, but after he was injured, the Steelers’ tight end was able to shake free from Adrian Phillips for the lone Pittsburgh touchdown. Prior to the game, I believed that if Pittsburgh got Claypool isolated on Myles Bryant, it would be a mismatch. But that didn’t work out that way, and Bryant played well.
The secondary held the underwhelming Mitch Trubiski to only 152 net passing yards on 33 attempts, averaging a meager 5.1 yards per pass.
Special Teams: C.
Nick Folk tied the NFL record for consecutive field goals inside of 50 yards in the first half. He’s run his streak to 56 straight. He later missed a 52-yarder.
Dugger, before his injury, returned a kickoff 37 yards. He was replaced by the rookie, Pierre Strong came on and returned two kickoffs for 48 yards. Myles Bryant nearly had a disastrous punt return. But his muff went into the endzone, where the Patriots recovered and took over from the 20.
Brenden Schooler was left all alone on the punt muff by Gunner Olszewski, Jake Bailey could have thrown him the ball for an easy first down, but it worked out even better as Schooler raced downfield unblocked and recovered the ball after it hit Gunner’s face mask.
The Patriots’ coaching staff overall had a good day. The defensive game plan was sound and held the Steelers to just 243 yards of offense and one offensive touchdown. Last week, there were a few “yeah buts” after the defense held Miami to just a single touchdown. This week, Miami eviscerated Baltimore’s defense with nearly 500 yards passing and six passing TDs.
The offensive game plan was sound, but the execution was much better than a week ago. Bill Belichick spent more time with the offense, Matt Patricia and Mac Jones, which seemed to help. Also, moving assistant OL coach Billy Yates to the field also looked like a good move It allowed Patricia more time to talk with different offensive players and coaches, while Yates was able to communicate with the OL.
It is a work in progress, and there was a definite step forward.
We’re on to the Ravens…
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Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Chase Claypool Cole Strange Damien Harris Diontae Johnson Jakobi Meyers Mac Jones Mack Wilson Mitch Trubiski Najee Harris Nelson Agholor New England Patriots Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers Rhamondre Stevenson