A pathetic performance from top to bottom, by BB's boys. The Patriots came out flat, and were flattened by the far more aggressive, and physical Steelers. For the second straight game, the Patriots' vaunted offense was help in check, this time to a season low 17 points...including 7 that were gift-wrapped for them by the Pats' defense. This team is collectively in dire need of a good swift kick in the backside. Here are my grades:I. OFFENSE:
The Brady bunch, in the few minutes (20) that they were on the field, were offensive...smelling. It was the units' worst performance since that forgettable trip to Cleveland last year, where the Rob Ryan coached Cleveland "D" held them to just 14 points.1.) QB:
As much as I would like to chastise every facet of this team for that stink-bomb they laid today in Pittsburgh, it's hard to fault Tom Brady. His WRs could not any separation throughout the game. His OL afforded him little protection, and failed to open any holes to establish a running game. Other than TE Rob Gronkowski, Tom seemed to be completely weaponless. He finished with 24 completions in 35 attempts for a mere 198 yards, and 2 TDs. Perhaps the most telling statistic for the passing attack was that the Pats averaged an horrific 5.7 yards per completion. That folks, is not going to get it done:GRADE: B-;
It's painfully obvious that BJGE is still very much bothered by that toe injury. He hasn't been the same RB since he sliced and diced the Jets, several weeks ago. But, where was Danny Woodhead, and the hot-shot draft choices, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley? No...instead BB dusted off 34 year Kevin Faulk. In limited attempts, Faulk averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and caught 4 passes for 20 yards. But, most of the run yardage was gained when the Steelers were in pass-prevent mode: GRADE: D+;
Without a doubt, this was their worst performance of the season. This group provided solid proof that if a team loses the battle up front, it loses the game. Steelers' DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley destroyed whoever it was who tried to block him. The Steelers' front three of Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton, and Brett Keisel shut down any semblance of a running attack, and were able to push the pocket most of the game. Logan Mankins had two annoying false starts, and Sebastien Vollmer looked like he was on roller skates throughout:GRADE: F;
Rob Gronkowski was the Patriots' sole offensive threat...finishing with 7 catches for 94 yards. Aaron Hernandez was a non-factor, with just 2 receptions for 9 yards...including a TD:GRADE: C+;
Wes Welker was shut down for the first time this season, finishing with just 6 catches for a paltry 39 yards. He also was the recipient of a physical beating for most of the game, primarily by Steelers' safeties Ryan Clark, and Troy Polamalu. Deion Branch was also roughed up by the Steelers' secondary, and finished with 4 receptions for 36 yards, and a TD. Can someone please tell me why Chad Ochocinco is still on this team? Wouldn't Brandon Lloyd have been a more attractive option? GRADE: F;
Considering that this unit was on the field for two-thirds of the game, things could have been worse than the 23 points it allowed. The Steelers repeatedly punched the "D" in the stomach, hitting reception after reception in its' soft underbelly, primarily in the middle of the field...leading to multiple sustained drives, primarily between the 20s. 1.) DL:
This unit had some problems stopping runs up the middle, but only because the Steelers were so successful with their short passing game. They did a fairly good job on occasion of pressuring Ben Roethisberger...as this group sacked him 5 timers. Pressure by this unit also resulted in a Gary Guyton interception, which kept the team in the game.GRADE: B;
Gary Guyton had the above mentioned pick, but did little else. Though Jerod Mayo saw some playing time, he's no where near ready. Brandon Spikes was solid, with 12 tackles, including 10 solos. But, the pass coverage in the zone was pathetic, as Roethlisberger consistently hit short to medium range passes underneath the zone...primarily in the middle of the field. Rob Ninkovich reportedly played this afternoon, too:GRADE: C;
Despite all the draft picks and money spent on this unit, it remains the weakest link on this team. The Steelers didn't slash the Pats with long passes, but they did them in with a death by 100 cuts...in the form of short and medium range passes. Steelers' TE Heath Miller had 7 catches (though it seemed like 70), for 85 yards. The fleet Mike Wallace added 7 more for 70 yards, Emmanuel Sanders had 5 for 70 yards, and Antonio Brown chipped in with 9 more, for 67 yards. In all, Ben Roethlisberger completed 36 of 50 passes for 365 yards, two TDs, and the above mentioned pick.
Credit the Steelers with a brilliant game plan, of basically running the Patriots' offense against the Patriots. The Pats' CB seemed so concerned with not giving up the big play, that they allowed the Steelers to, in effect, use their passing game like a running game.
The above four receivers collectively finished with 28 receptions for 282 yards...an average of 10 yards per reception. What was striking was how wide open these 4 Steelers receivers were for the entire game. But, in fairness to the secondary, a good deal of fault for this falls directly on the coaching staff.
Look for other teams to emulate a similar offensive strategy against the Patriots in the future. Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, James Ihedigbo, and Kyle Arrington collectively finished with 38 tackles (including 29 solos). When the opposing offense gets to run 78 plays in 40 minutes, and puts up 29 first downs...this is the result.GRADE: F;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS:
Stephen Gostkowski has to do a better job. He's not being paid to clank 42 yard FGs off the goal post...he's being paid to make them. His miss in the 3rd quarter helped to derail a possible Patriots' comeback bid. His two pathetic attempts at on-side kicks makes you wonder whether the Patriots ever worked on this in practice. With regards to kick coverage, the Pat were a might too generous. As for returning kicks, they're doing a lousy job this year: GRADE: C-;
Hard to believe that BB and the Patriots' brain thrust allowed themselves to be so badly out-coached, when they had all the time in the world to prepare for this game. Worse yet, the team came out flatter than a pancake, in one of the most important games of the season. The Pats lost this game in the first quarter, when they allowed the Steelers to jump out to a 10-0 lead. In that quarter, the Pats' offense had the ball for just 1:24, registering a three and out. Thereafter, the Patriots' outscored the Steelers, 17-15. But, the damage had been done.
You have to wonder whether it's time for this team to finally start spending money on better caliber assistants. In any event, BB and his coaches have a ton of work to do. They have the (5-2) NY Giants next week, who, as we know, match up well against the Pats. Next, they face their most important game of the season, on the road against the hated Jets. They had better come up with a way to get their deflated offense back on track...and had better solve the short pass troubles we saw today.
Rare to see a BB Patriots' team be as badly out-coached and outplayed, as they were today. GRADE: F;
V. PLAYER OF THE GAME:
DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley was in Tom Brady's face, and head, most of the game. Although I strongly considered Ben Roethlisberger, his receivers were so wide open today that 63 year old Terry Bradshaw could have completed the same passes to them. Another possibility for POTG was TE Heath Miller...who killed the Patriots early on.VI. PLAY OF THE GAME:
Any one of several short to mid-range completions to TE Heath Miller early in the game...which really set the tone.
Here are the sorry game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=311030023
As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome.