Patriots struggle in 25-17 loss to Steelers
Tom Brady built his career - and won three Super Bowls - finding ways
to do things to the Pittsburgh Steelers no other quarterback can.
On Sunday, he found himself on the sideline far too long to continue
his mastery over the defending AFC champions.
The Steelers controlled the clock and held the NFL's top offense in
check in a 25-17 victory, ending Brady's decade of dominance of them by
forcing him to spend most of the day in a baseball cap watching
Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger do his best Brady impression.
Roethlisberger picked apart the league's worst defense, completing 36
of 50 passes for 365 yards and throwing a pair of touchdowns. Brady
threw two scores of his own but New England could only muster 213 total
yards, far less than half their average of 474.
''There was a poor level of execution,'' Brady said. ''Too many
three-and-outs. We all have to individually look in the mirror and
figure out what we need to get better at.''
Getting off the field on defense would be a good place to start.
The Steelers held the ball for more than 39 minutes, converted 10-of-16
third downs and ran 78 plays while the Patriots (5-2) snapped the ball
just 50 times.
''It's very frustrating,'' New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork said.
''You talk about getting a team in second-and-longs and third-and-longs
and taking advantage of those situations. We had them in those
situations; we just didn't take advantage of them.''
Not nearly enough to hold off the surging Steelers.
Pittsburgh (6-2) won its fourth straight and beat Brady for the first
time since 2004 behind a series of long drives that Brady could only
''You always want to be out there and the defense is busting their
butts to get them off the field,'' Brady said. ''We needed to do a
better job complimenting their drives. If they have a long drive, our
offense can't just go in there and do a three-and-out like we did.
We've got to do a better job. We made a lot of errors.''
The Patriots punted four times and Stephen Gostkowski missed a field
goal that would have pulled New England within a touchdown in the third
Brady threw a late touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez with 2:35 to go
cut the deficit to 23-17, but the ensuing onside kick failed to go the
required 10 yards. Pittsburgh all but ran out the clock, and New
England's last-gasp drive ended with Brady fumbling while getting
sacked by Pittsburgh's Brett Keisel.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu practically pushed the loose ball through
the end zone for a safety to provide the final margin and hand the
Patriots their second loss to the Steelers in Brady's eight career
starts against them.
''It just wasn't a really good day for us in any phase of the game, in
any area,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''We just didn't do a good
enough job. That's really all there is to say.''
It may be October, but the game had a January feel, and it wasn't just
the chilly conditions.
The Steelers pointed to the matchup as a litmus test after a sluggish -
by the franchise's lofty standards - start. Were they the ''old, slow''
bunch that looked overmatched in losses to Baltimore and Houston or
were they simply taking their time getting started.
The answer, it appears, is the latter, even if the Steelers solved
Brady using un-Steelerlike methods.
Rather than pound away with running back Rashard Mendenhall,
Roethlisberger - who never met a deep ball he didn't like to throw -
did his best Brady imitation, moving the chains with a controlled
passing attack that took yardage in small bits.
The Steelers didn't complete a pass over 26 yards. They didn't have to.
Roethlisberger consistently found Antonio Brown (a career-high nine
receptions), Heath Miller (a season-high seven grabs) and speedster
Mike Wallace (seven catches) on short and intermediate routes.
The West Coast-style approach worked perfectly.
Pittsburgh's five scoring drives lasted 11, 16, 10, 14 and 11 plays.
When the Steelers didn't get in the end zone, Shaun Suisham knocked in
three field goals.
The long drives kept Pittsburgh's defense well-rested and the Steelers
were able to use their fresh legs to get after the Patriots.
Pittsburgh sacked the two-time MVP three times and kept Wes Welker in
check. Welker, on pace to set a league record for yards receiving in a
season, finished with six catches for 39 yards.
The loss kept Brady and Belichick tied with Miami's Don Shula and Dan
Marino for the winningest coach/quarterback combination in league
The duo is stuck on 116 for at least another week while the Steelers,
an afterthought early in the season, appear to be peaking.
Notes: Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley finished with two sacks to
become the first Steeler to record multiple sacks in four consecutive
games. ... New England running back Kevin Faulk ran for 32 yards on six
carries and caught five passes for 20 yards in his first game of the
season. ... The Patriots lost for the second time in their last 11
games coming off a bye and lost in October for the seventh time since
2003. ... New England tight end Rob Gronkowski set a career-high with
seven catches. ... The Steelers played without offensive captain Hines Ward and defensive captain James Farrior, who missed the game with
injuries. ... New England defensive lineman Andre Carter had two sacks
for the 11th time in his career.
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