The Patriots (5-1) headed into Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2). In a game that was viewed by many as a match-up between the two top teams in the AFC, it had all of the makings of it before last weekend. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a knee injury in week six that required surgery that caused him to miss this showdown. In his place, Landry Jones was the Steelers quarterback and actually did his best to keep the Steelers in this game. The Patriots did win this game 27-16, but it wasn’t always a two score game.
The Patriots were coming into this game riding a two game win streak since Tom Brady had returned, but this game was still their toughest match since having Brady return. The Steelers are the AFC North division leaders and boasted two of the best offensive players in the league with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Both were relied on heavily in this game with the obvious downgrade at quarterback for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, it would not be enough to overcome the Patriots as they kept the game interesting but ultimately lost.
In what might be a little surprising for the Patriots, considering how successful they have been in the pass game lately, relied heavily on LeGarrette Blount in this game to lead the Patriots. He would finish with 127 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 24 carries (5.3 yards per carry). Since Brady had come back, Blount had only managed 87 yards in two games. Despite that, he was one of the best players on the field for the Patriots on either side of the ball and was a huge reason why they ended up victorious. In other news concerning the run game, Brady ran the ball for 13 yards on five carries including getting three third down conversions with his legs.
In the passing and receiving game, Brady finished 222 yards and two passing touchdowns on 19 of 26 passing. While it was his first game under 300 yards and three touchdowns of the season, he still had a solid game in moving the chains and making good decisions while finding open receivers as well. Rob Gronkowski once again finished as the team’s leading receiver, going for 93 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. Julian Edelman had a bounce-back game with nine receptions and 60 yards. James White didn’t have the type of game he did last weekend but still had 32 yards and a touchdown on two receptions. Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Blount combined to finish with 37 yards on four receptions.
Hogan did have an early fumble after a catch in the first quarter and saw little action on the field afterwards while Edelman lost a fumble on a punt return as well. The Patriots offensive line did well for the most part, only giving up two quarterback hits on Brady with no sacks. They did have five holding penalties though, one each on Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney and David Andrews with Nate Solder accumulating two of his own. One of Solder’s and Mason’s were each declined, but it was still not the best day the Patriots offensive line could have. Overall, it wasn’t a bad showing by the Patriots offense, who accumulated 362 yards of offense.
For the defense, the team may have only given up 16 points to the Steelers, but it was far from a pretty game for them. They gave up 375 yards of offense, including 149 yards of offense to Bell. He had 81 yards rushing on 21 carries to go with 10 receptions for 68 yards. He was an offensive catalyst for the team, gaining key yardage and converting important plays to keep the offense going for the Steelers. Brown also had a good game with 106 yards on seven receptions and a rushing attempt for 13 yards despite missing time when he hurt his left leg in the game. Besides Brown and Bell, Cobi Hamilton, Darrius Hayward-Bay, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, David Johnson and Sammie Coates combined for 12 receptions and 107 yards in the receiving game.
Clearly outside of Bell and Brown, the Steelers struggled finding anyone else to stand up on offense. Jones didn’t have a bad game outside of his one interception throw, going 29 of 47 for 281 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t necessarily have a great game, but he did probably better than what was expected of him. He made some nice throws downfield while making sure to find Brown and Bell often for 17 of his 29 completions. The offense finished with more total yards (375 to 362) than the Patriots and had a higher time of possession (32:29 to 27:31) as well. But the Steelers finished with 17 first downs compared to the Patriots 21. All in all, it appears that despite the Steelers leading in major offensive categories, they couldn’t convert as many opportunities.
Defensively the Patriots gave up a lot of yardage but did well in not letting those yards convert to points for the Steelers. Despite covering Brown and allowing him to get over 100 yards receiving, Malcolm Butler secured an interception along with three pass deflections as well. Patrick Chung had 11 total tackles with two pass deflections while Eric Rowe, Justin Coleman and Logan Ryan all had one pass deflection each. The Patriots were unable to generate much pressure on Jones, with only two quarterback hits (one each from Chris Long and Anthony Johnson) and no sacks. Partially, that can be pinned on the conservative play calling by Matt Pratricia who chose to rush with only three or four for the most part to have more players in pass coverage. At the end of the day, the Patriots gave up less than 20 points again and had another victory even if the other stats weren’t the best.
On special teams, Stephen Gostkowski had another shaky day including missing his second extra point of the season. Ryan Allen had some shaky punts including a 25 yard shank as well. And not to mention Edelman’s muffed punt return as well. Overall, it wasn’t a good showing on special teams for the Patriots today.
The Patriots did enough on both sides of the ball to win this victory without much of an issue. They had their highlights on offense and defense and had no egregious mistakes that may have cost them. They will head to Buffalo next weekend to try and avenge their only loss of the season against Rex Ryan and the Bills.