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MORSE: 14 Observation From the Big Patriots’ Victory Over Steelers

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
December 8, 2023 at 5:00 am ET

MORSE: 14 Observation From the Big Patriots’ Victory Over Steelers(PHOTO: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Dec 08, 2023 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

1)Good news … my wife didn’t throw up watching the Patriots play this week!  I admit that I lost my shit when I thought the Patriots had jumped offsides on a Punt Return.  I shut off the TV and paced the room.  I remembered that I didn’t tape the game, so I turned it back on to find the officials made the call on the Pittsburgh Long Snapper.  In review I think the Officials made the wrong call.

2) My keys to the game were the turnover battle (even) but Patriots scored off the turnover and the Steelers got nothing.  Special Teams (PIT) as the Patriots tried to give the game away.  I didn’t like the stupid penalty by Brenden Schooler for pushing a Steeler in the face after the play was over (BTW that should have been a Yellow Card to PIT RB Godwin Igwebuike for bad acting).

3) The Patriots Special Teamers tried to give this game to Pittsburgh.  The blocked punt after the defensive stop on 4th down, was due to Ty Montgomery whiffing on a block and personal protector Cody Davis going up field before securing the punt got off.  Bryce Baringer needs to get his punts off quicker too.  I have notice over the last few games that he was slow getting his kicks off.   Baringer had 8 punts for a 43.9 average with 2 Touchbacks and 3 inside the 20.

4) I loved the Opening drive of 8 plays and 75 yards.  JuJu Smith-Schuster made a big catch on an underthrown ball.  That was the 1st time this season the Patriots took their opening drive down the field for a TD.  I liked Bailey Zappe’s command of the huddle and his ability to move around the pocket and step up on his throws even when he had a defender in his face.

5) Zappe had a very good game except for two plays.  He was 19 of 28, for 240 yards and 3 TDs.  The Interception was at a very bad time.  The Defense bailed him out by holding the Steelers on 4th down at the 7-yard line.  On the INT, Zappe had Elliott wide open for a checkdown and 1st down.  Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster was cutting across the field and in the same area as Elliott.  Bad play design by Bill O’Brien or poor execution by the players.  If Zappe had just waited for Smith-Schuster to clear the middle and lead him toward the sideline he would have had the completion for a 1st down.  Later he threw on the run and tossed it to the sideline behind the receiver again.  It went right through the arms of the Steelers defender and if he had caught it, he would have been ruled in bounds.

6) Best game by JuJu Smith-Schuster in front of his former team.  He had 4 catches on 6 targets for 90 yards.  I wished they had looked for him more in the 2nd half to get him over the century mark.   No receiver or RB has had a 100-yard game this year for the Patriots.  later in the game Smith-Schuster and Bailey Zappe recognized the blitz by the Steelers.  Smith-Schuster as a hot receiver did a slant and Zappe fired it in there for a 17-yard 1st down.

7) Ezekiel Elliott had a big game.  He rushed 22 times for 68 yards and had 7 catches for 72 yards and a TD.  His biggest play may have been his hustle to get back downfield and make the tackle on the INT return.  The defense held on 4th down and there was no change in the score.   Elliott’s 140 yards total was the largest amount by a Patriots player this season.  He was a workhorse in this game.

8) That was the Hunter Henry we expected to see when we signed him as a big time Free Agent signee.  The Birthday Boy had 2 TDs, and both were excellent catches.  The 2nd was a fake of a screen pass and go.  The pass was fired on a line and just over the defenders.  Henry reached up with both hands and snatched it out of the air … TD.

9) The Defense played well but had some problems with missed tackles.  JC Jackson had a rough game and got called for Pass Interference, which wiped out his INT and was called for another PI in the endzone. Later, he got beaten cleanly by Dionte Johnson for a TD.

10) The Steelers had more 1st downs (18-14) and held the Time of Possession 32:19 to 27:41 battle. However, the Patriots held the Steelers to 3-14 on third down and 1-3 on 4th down.

11) The Patriots can’t run the Tush Push.  Neither Zappe nor Jones are big QBs and runners.  If you’re going to run that play, bring in Cunningham.  Everybody knows what you are going to do.

12) Tomlin and the Steelers blew two timeouts in the second half, leaving them just one down the stretch.  Also, the call to throw a fade down the sideline on 4th and 2 was stupid.  Good coverage by Jonathan Jones.

13) This was perhaps Anfernee Jennings’ finest game as a Patriot.  He was force with 4 solo tackles and 3 of them Tackles for Loss.   Jahlani Tavai had 15 tackles, 8 of them solo.  However, it was Tavai that jumped offside on the punt return that got bailed out by a bad call by the Officials.

14) Sidy Sow had two big, missed blocks.  The first was a game by Elandon Roberts.  Roberts lined up over the Left Guard.  The two players to his left slanted right and Robert looped around both and through a huge hole in the line to sack Zappe.  Sow was late in recognizing this and gave up the sack.  He has missed this type of play all season and hasn’t learned or been taught any better by the Offensive Line coach.  Late in the game he was to pull down the line to his left and pick up the end that would crash down the line.  The end was TJ Watt and went right around Sow to trip up Elliott on a key play late in the game.  I thought that delayed handoff, where the QB turns his back to the line takes too long to develop.  The Patriots are asking for trouble with this play.

READ NEXT:
Patriots News 12-10, Patriots Report Card Against Pittsburgh

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.


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