New England Patriots Game Review: Offense Explodes Against the Steelers

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On the initial drive of the game, the Patriots defense jumped right on the Steelers after the Steelers drove inside New England territory with little resistance on their opening drive. On third and two at the 34 yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was strip-sacked by Rob Ninkovich and recovered by rookie defensive tackle Joe Vellano. Unfortunately, the Patriots went three and out and punted away wasting the opportunity to take advantage of the turnover.

After another stop, the Patriots drove down to the Steelers one yard line facing a fourth and goal to go behind four completions on the drive to tight end Rob Gronkowski for all 78 yards through the air. When the Patriots twice failed to run it in (offsides on Pittsburgh gave them another chance), the Steelers took over after the goal-line run stop.

Nov 3, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) intercepts a ball intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of gaining momentum on the heels of a big stop, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, under a heavy blitz rush from linebacker Brandon Spikes, heaved a long pass that was picked off by Devin McCourty at the 34 yard line. One play later, Danny Amendola was wide open down the seam for the touchdown. It was a great job by the veteran quarterback Tom Brady looking Steelers All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu off the route to get Amendola open.

The prevent defense was in effect on the next drive for the Patriots as the Steelers converted a third and thirty with a 29 yard screen pass on third down and a fourth down conversion. On third and thirty, the Steelers screen pass was poorly defended and a missed tackle by Stephen Gregory allowed the last nine yards and an opportunity to convert on fourth down from the 42 yard line rather than punt.

Rookie defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones made big stops afterwards on a third and one and fourth and one at the 32 yard line to stall out the Steelers.  Again, the Patriots kept momentum with some strong running by Stevan Ridley and a big play by the “other” tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.  Then Tom Brady went back to Gronkowski on back-to-back nineteen yard passes to make it 14-0 New England on top.

Pittsburgh finally took advantage of the Patriots secondary missing cornerback Aqib Talib as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders for 42 yards and Antonio Brown for 17 yards to get into the red zone in a hurry. The bend but do not break defense tightened up and forced a thirty yard field goal.  After a 57 yard completion to Danny Amendola getting wide open the Steelers defense tightened up in the red zone and held New England to three.

With less than two minutes, the Steelers rode big plays by running back Jonathan Dwyer rumbling for thirty yards and then Roethlisberger finding Antonio Brown in single coverage and cutting into the Patriots lead. However, New England’s two minute offense moved the ball downfield methodically as Brady took advantage of two defensive pass interference calls to move down to the one yard line where Stevan Ridley pounded it into the end zone with ten seconds left in the half to make it 24-10.