Patriots offense runs their way to victory in Pittsburgh

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

Clinging to a three-point lead, the Patriots took over at their own 30-yard line with 6:33 left in the game. An offense that had been held in check for most of the day and had been unable to put together a drive in the second half never relinquished possession, as they held on for a 17-14 victory over the Steelers.

The Patriots had run the ball only three times in the fourth quarter, as their two drives each ended in punts after taking a 17-6 lead late in the third, thanks to a muffed punt by old friend Gunner Olszewski. The drive to end the game would be different, as they were able to rush 12 times for 35 yards, picking up crucial first downs along the way. Take away the three kneel downs by quarterback Mac Jones at the end, and it was nine rushes for 44 yards, giving the team 124 yards on the day.

It was a great drive to see, especially from the offensive line. The Patriots’ offensive line had an up-and-down afternoon, as they were able to keep Jones clean against a defense that sacked Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow seven times last week, but they committed multiple penalties which killed drives. In fact, rookie left guard Cole Strange was the only lineman not to be called for a penalty.

After an 11-yard pickup by receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey on the only pass of the drive, Jones was able to pick up a crucial 3rd down with his legs on a five-yard scramble, allowing the clock to continue to run. From there the Patriots were able to end it with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson running behind the much-maligned offensive line. The key play was a 16-yard pick up by Harris over left guard, as this drive really showed why the Patriots picked Strange with their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

In all, the Patriots rushed five times for 41 yards behind Strange and left tackle Trent Brown on the drive, with right guard Michael Onwenu providing support as a pulling guard. The clincher was Harris running behind the left line to pick up five yards on 3rd and three. The only negative of the drive was that Harris seemed to suffer a leg injury on the carry which will be something to monitor as the week progresses.