The New England Patriots couldn't have played much worse than they did last Sunday afternoon in Cleveland. They were embarrassed plain and simple. Now what I've come to love in the Belichick Era of Patriots football is that there is no more entertaining team than one that is playing pissed off. The New England Patriots (7-2) went to Pittsburgh pissed off and someone was gonna pay. That someone was the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3), as it was there turn to get their asses kicked up and down the field. The Patriots manhandled the Steelers from start to finish 39-26 at Heinz field Sunday evening in front of a national television audience and a crowd that dwindled to seemingly 100's by games end.
New England set the tone from the opening series as Pittsburgh punted four times in their first five possessions, with the lone successful possession resulting in a Jeff Reed 22 yard field goal that cut the Patriots lead to 10-3 midway through the second quarter. Prior to that the Steelers mustered drives of 3 plays, 6 plays and 9 plays and after the field goal they went 3 and out again and then had the ball near midfield on their last drive when time expired for the half.
New England on the other hand was very successful getting points on their first two drives. The opening drive was capped by a bullet pass of 19 yards from Tom Brady to rookie TE Rob Gronkowski for a 7-0 lead. They followed that up with another drive that resulted in new kicker Shayne Graham getting a 31 yard field goal after the drive stalled on the Pittsburgh 12 yard line.
The New England defense had a great first half as well as they were flying all over the field and sacked Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger 3 times before the half way point and nearly had 1 or two more. It included back-to-back sacks of Roethlisberger by LB Gary Guyton and then DE Mike Wright and LB Shawn Crable did him in to end a Steelers drive. LB Tully Banta-Cain also got to Roethlisberger in the second quarter that forced yet another Pittsburgh punt.
The second half started just like the first with the Patriots taking the ball down field and and getting seven when Brady found Gronkowski for the second time and the big guy rumbled in from 9 yards out and a 17-3 New England lead. After each team traded punts the Steelers looked like they might cut into that lead with a seven play 59 yard drive that stalled at the three when the Patriots secondary tightened up and the pass rush brought it big time. Reed attempted what would be a chip shot field goal of 26 yards and came up with a huge divot of Heinz Field grass and the ball went wide right and the lead stayed at two touchdowns.
Good teams make their opponents pay for their mistakes and blown scoring opportunities and that's what New England did as they went down the field 80 yards in 7 plays and wrapped it up with Brady taking it in himself from 3 yards out. After a missed PAT by Graham the score was 23-3 New England. Pittsburgh was badly outplayed and as the quarter ended thousands of fans in black and gold headed for the parking lots and mass transit.
The fourth quarter would be played like a shootout and saw Pittsburgh try to climb back into the game several times but get no closer than ten points as they scored three TD's in the final quarter while New England added two TD's, one on a James Sanders 31 yard TAINT off a deflected Roethlisberger pass and the third and final Brady to Gronkowski hook up, this one was from 25 yards out. Graham added a late 35 yard field goal and that was the game.
When you look at the stats and you see all the passing yards Roethlisberger had, realize that many of these came late in the game as he and the team piled up yards while frantically trying to get back into a lost game. He had no where near the game Brady had and many of the Steelers total yards were soft yards that you see in many NFL games each week.
Make no mistake, the New England Patriots went into Pittsburgh and came out with the Steelers manhood. Many Pittsburgh fans probably wished that happened last year as than Roethlisberger wouldn't have been out hitting on college chicks in a Georgia bar. The best part for me has been listening to national sports talk radio shows on SiriusXM Sunday night and Monday and hearing the whining of the Steelers fans. Enough already, you got beat and you have a tough time trying to beat this team it's a fact. Get over it.
Patriots at Steelers Gamebook. This includes the box score, all the stats, play by play, drive charts and more.
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