Pats Steel one back from Pittsburgh
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Mistakes are usually the great equalizer in the NFL. Forcing those mistakes can make most teams pretty good.
Make enough of them, and they can make most other teams pretty bad, as well. Two 1st quarter turnovers set the tone for a Pittsburgh team that used defense and a couple of big plays to hang around...only to have New England grind one out in the 4th quarter for a wild 55-31 win at Gillette Stadium.
On a 3rd and 2 from the Patriots' 36, Rob Ninkovich was the first to reach Ben Roethlisberger on the game's first possession, who lost the ball on a sack. Recovered by Joe Vellano, NE set up shop at their own 42 yard line...but the offense could not move the ball for a first down. After forcing a Pittsburgh punt, the Patriots began a drive from their own 22. Tom Brady found his biggest - and perhaps best - target open in TE Rob Gronkowski, for four catches and 72 yards on the drive. On a 4th and less-than-one, from inside the one...Stevan Ridley was brought down short of the goal by Troy Polamalu with 4:12 left in the 1st quarter.
From inside their own one, however, Roethlisberger heaved the ball upfield with a heavy rush from his own end zone, and Devin McCourty picked off the pass at the Steelers' 34. With one swift stroke, Brady found a wide open Danny Amendola up the middle of the field for a score...giving the Patriots the somewhat-delayed 7-0 lead.
Then, it was the defense's turn to shine again. After allowing the Steelers to pick up 28 3/4 yards on a 3rd and 29 play, and converting on 4th down...the defense stopped the Steelers on another 4th down try short of the NE 33. It took just six plays thereafter to cover 67 yards and find the end zone again, with Brady hooking up with Gronkowski for the final 19 yards and the touchdown to make it 14-0...and 10:30 left before the half.
Pittsburgh got on the board three minutes later as Shaun Suisham kicked a 30-yard field goal, which was set up by a 42-yard completion from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders. Brady immediately went to work on the Pitt secondary, finding Gronkowski for a first down pickup, and searing that secondary by firing a 57 yard strike to Amendola. However, a Lawrence Timmons sack of Brady forced the Pats to settle for a 21-yard Stephen Gostkowski FG and a 17-3 advantage.
It didn't take the Steelers long, however, to get back into things. Roethlisberger polished off a quick, 71-yard drive by connecting with Antonio Brown on a 27-yard scoring pass to pull Pitt back within 17-10 just before halftime.
More than enough time for Brady to get it in gear again. Thanks to an end zone pass interference call against Gronkowski, Ridley ran one in with 10 ticks still left on the clock for a 24-10 score - covering 77 yards in nine plays over 1:45 - that really had to hurt the Steelers.
And with the Patriots getting the ball to start the second half, it almost did. But when Polamalu stripped Ridley of the ball after catching a short pass from Brady at the NE 36, the Steelers still had some life. Roethlisberger found Jerricho Cotchery for a 20-yard TD to make the Pats pay for the mistake...and a 24-17 game with 11:02 to go in the 3rd quarter.
And when Pitt's defense managed a three-and-out stop on the Patriots' next series, they were certainly back in business with the ball at the NE 46 to start a drive. A 25-yard run by Le'Veon Bell and a 15-yard completion to TE Heath Miller put the Steelers at the 16. Three plays later, Cotchery caught another strike from Roethlisberger and a brand new game was born, 24-24, still with 7:10 to play in the period.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. They can hurt.
And they can kill drives, too. With the ball at the Steelers' five facing third-and-three, the offensive line gave up another sack of Brady, with Jason Worilds getting the stop...and forcing Gostkowski into a 32-yard FG for a 27-24 NE lead. But after the Patriot defense managed to slow down a rampaging Roethlisberger, Julian Edelman set the offense up in great shape following a 43-yard punt return at the Pitt 34. Brady found Aaron Dobson on a 17-yard sideline route for the score to give New England a 10-point cushion with 13:46 to play.
The Patriots then put things away with 9:16 left on a yard-chewing grinder of a drive...covering eight plays and 61 yards...with Ridley getting the final five to make it 41-24. Ridley went over 100 yards rushing on the drive, with 115 for the day and two TD's.
Although, Roethlisberger did his best by continuing to pitch the ball upfield. Connecting with Cotchery for a third time on a TD pass, this time from six yards out, pulled the Steelers within 41-31 and 6:15 still remaining. The fireworks weren't quite over yet, however. Brady hit Dobson for an 81-yard score that clearly caught the Pitt defense by surprise...thinking run, perhaps, instead of pass...to make it 48-31. A week after passing for just 116 yards, TB12 tossed for 432 yards, and four scores. And after Duron Harmon intercepted Roethlisberger with just over three minutes left, the Patriots let LeGarrette Blount pound away for insult to injury and a remarkable 55-31 final.
No mistake about it. With healthy players at hand, the Patriots can still be a pretty good team.
Post Game Notes
Sunday’s 55-31 win over Pittsburgh game marked the sixth time that New England scored at least 50 points in a game started by Brady, tying Len Dawson for the most 50-point games by a starting QB in NFL history...Brady had four touchdowns and no interceptions, marking the 15th time in his career that he has had four or more touchdowns without an interception. Brady passed Drew Brees (14) for the most such games in NFL history...Brady also finished with 432 passing yards, marking the third highest single-game total of his 186-game career...as a team, the Patriots totaled 610 net yards against Pittsburgh, marking the third highest single-game net yardage total in the franchise’s 853-game history...the Patriots had three players finish with 100 yards receiving in a single game for the first time in team history when Rob Gronkowski finished with 143 yards, Aaron Dobson with 130 yards and Danny Amendola with 122 yards. It is also the third time in NFL history that a team has had three receivers top the 120 yard mark and score a touchdown in a game...Gronkowski also had a career high nine receptions in the game...the defense had at least five sacks for the second straight game, marking the first time since 2007 that they have had back-to-back games with at least five sacks...Chandler Jones had two sacks, his 3rd game with at least two this season...Stephen Gostkowski extended his streak to 17 straight field goals with his 20-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter...