PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 16
Steelers' record: 4-3
One year ago: 4-3
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 15-14
Game action from Week 7 against the New England Patriots.
With no Ben Roethlisberger and no Cam Heyward, the Steelers unquestionably were shorthanded for this game against the New England Patriots, and those were just two of the seven players ruled out of the game on the Friday before kickoff. What this meant was that the Steelers were going to have to play an almost perfect game with the players who were available to have a real chance to defeat the Patriots.
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
The Steelers did finish with nearly a five-minute edge in time of possession, they were plus-1 in turnover ratio, and they gained more total net yards of offense than New England, but there were several other key areas in which they fell short, areas that can be cited as reasons for the outcome.
The Steelers were 1-for-4 in the red zone, and they were penalized twice as often as New England – 10 for 85 yards vs. four for 40 yards. Also, the Patriots finished with 140 net yards rushing, including a game-high 127 yards on 24 carries (5.3 average) by LeGarrette Blount, who also scored two touchdowns.
"We acknowledge schematically that we were willing to bleed a little bit in the run game in an effort to minimize big plays," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "In doing so, we would have to come off blocks and make tackles – not enough of that for us to be successful."
FIRST HALF STAT THAT STANDS OUT**
Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett are the focal point of the Patriots offense, but in the first half the duo combined for two catches for 13 yards. Gronkowski had one catch for 13 yards, and Bennett had one catch for no gain. But even with that, the Patriots held a 14-10 lead and had converted 6-for-8 on third downs. On the two third-down failures, Tom Brady had a pass dropped each time.
It's a 60-minute game, and to defeat a team the caliber of the Patriots requires a full 60 minutes of quality play, but the Steelers had a chance right at the outset to land a couple of punches and put New England on its heels. When the Steelers failed, the Patriots answered and took control.
The Steelers won the toss and elected to receive, but the offense went three-and-out, and then Jordan Berry's 45-yard punt was returned 10 yards by Julian Edelman. The Steelers defense came up with a takeaway on New England's first play, when Ryan Shazier forced a fumble by wide receiver Chris Hogan after a short completion, and when Jones recovered the Steelers took over at the Patriots 45-yard line.
A 25-yard completion from Landry Jones to Antonio Brown was followed by a false start penalty on Chris Hubbard. Two plays after that, the Steelers faced a third-and-6 from the New England 16-yard line. There and then, Jones committed a cardinal sin – his pass to Brown in the end zone was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.
"(Brown) ran a good route, but that was just a bad ball," said Jones. "I threw a crappy ball. AB was matched up one-on-one, and I wanted to take a shot on third down to the end zone. Good play by a good corner."