New England Patriots Game Review: Offense Explodes Against the Steelers

2 of 3

Oct 27, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu (43) Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On the second play of the second half, a short pass to Stevan Ridley after converting a first down the previous play to Danny Amendola resulted in a fumble as Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu ripped the ball loose. This was not the way the Patriots drew up the start of the second half. After the recovery, the Steelers moved quickly and covered the 36 yards in five plays with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finding former New York Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone.

A three and out by New England after a missed connection on third and two to rookie receiver Aaron Dobson. A long punt return by Antonio Brown put the ball in New England territory and the Steelers efficiently moved downfield. With defensive end Rob Ninkovich sidelined by injury, the defense took another hit as safety Steve Gregory left with an apparent wrist injury.  On third and two at the eight, the Steelers tied it up at 24 with a pass again to Jerricho Cotchery as he beat rookie cornerback Logan Ryan who never got his head turned around to locate the ball.

With the game tied, quarterback Tom Brady went to what worked so well in the first half finding tight end Rob Gronkowski over the middle of the field for 16 yards. Unfortunately, Gronkowski limped off after a hit to his thigh by Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark.  After a false start on guard Logan Mankins, the Patriots offense did a good job of extending the drive with back-to-back first down conversions by running back Stevan Ridley.

It was important that the Patriots coaches did not bench Ridley after the initial fumble. With Gronkowski back on the field, Brady stood in with a big rush and found the other first half star, Danny Amendola for 21 yards. Unfortunately, on third down the Steelers pass rush got to Brady as Jason Worilds sacked him back to 14 yard line on third and three. Stephen Gostkowski kicked the 32 yard field goal and gave the lead back to the Patriots late in the third quarter.

Nov 3, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) celebrate a touchdown during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The special teams stepped up for New England after Gostkowski gave the unit a boost with the field goal. First, the kickoff coverage pinned Steelers kick returner Felix Jones at the ten yard line.  Although the Steelers got a first down (Cotchery again), the defense held and forced a punt which keyed the next big play by the special teams unit. This time, punt returner Julian Edelman ran back a line drive punt by new Pittsburgh punter Mat McBriar (who replaced former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko) for 43 yards and set up New England in great field position.

With “the hammer” on at running back (LeGarrette Blount) as the game moved into the fourth quarter,  the Patriots mixed runs and two passes to rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson including a beautiful back shoulder reception in the end zone for 17 yards to give the Patriots a ten point cushion again (despite a long review upstairs).  Despite the poor third quarter, the offense and defense came back strong in the fourth quarter to put New England in position to go into the bye week with their best offensive performance to date.

Pittsburgh came back on offense and went three-and-out as the defense held strong and a huge sack on third down by linebacker Dane Fletcher on a delayed blitz forced another punt.  This time, the Patriots marched downfield behind running back Stevan Ridley and, who else, tight end Rob Gronkowski. After Gronkowski converted a huge third down to the Pittsburgh 18 yard line, Ridley did the rest to go over 100 yards rushing and make it 41-24 Patriots over the Steelers.

Unfortunately, the Steelers offense came right back to cut it to ten points. Roethlisberger found Jerricho Cotchery three times on the drive and converted on a crossing route from six yards out for his third touchdown of the game.  Back within ten points, the Steelers kicked deep and returner Devin McCourty made a crucial mistake and caught the ball inside the five instead of letting it go into the end zone and pinned the Patriots at the seven.

No problem. A twelve yard rumble by LeGarrette Blount put the Patriots at the nineteen yard line and gave them some breathing room.  With the Steelers safeties crowding the line of scrimmage, Tom Brady found Aaron Dobson deep behind the defenders and made a perfect deep pass (first time that has been said all season) and Dobson went over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career with the 81 yard touchdown reception.

On the next series, a miscommunication by Pittsburgh resulted in an interception by rookie safety Duron Harmon and LeGarrette Blount hammered the ball into the end zone after that to make the score a ridiculous 55 to 31.  At that point, the garbage time was really on as the game was all but over at that point.