The New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening week and the Steelers cried foul. In a game of inches, they claimed the Patriots were cutting corners. It's poor form from Pittsburgh as they were just looking for excuses for their defeat. Let's look at the actual plays that led to the Patriots victory.
Top Five Patriots Plays
5. Rob Gronkowski recovers Steelers kicker Josh Scobee's onside kick to end the game. (+2.06 EP)
4. Tom Brady throws a 16-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski after the Steelers forgot to cover the All Pro tight end. (+2.49 EP)
3. Tom Brady passes to Julian Edelman, which results in defensive pass interference in the end zone. The Patriots get the ball on the goal line. (+3.33 EP)
2. Tom Brady passes to a wide open Rob Gronkowski for 52 yards. The Patriots needed a response to the Steelers score and tilted the game back in their favor. (+3.44 EP)
1. Tom Brady passes to Dion Lewis for 19 yards, who fumbles the ball. The ball is recovered on the Steelers 1 yard line by Rob Gronkowski. This was a 3rd and 5 play that brought the ball to the goal line with a new set of downs. It increased the Patriots expected points from a field goal to a touchdown. (+3.77 EP)
Gronkowski ranks 6th and 7th with his other two touchdowns.
Bottom Five Patriots Plays
5. Ben Roethlisbeger throws a 4-yard completion to Darrius Heyward-Bey between Bradley Fletcher and Jamie Collins on 4th and 3, right before half time. (-2.52 EP)
4. Ben Roethlisbeger throws incomplete to tight end Heath Miller in the end zone on 3rd and goal. Pat Chung called for defensive pass interference, giving Pittsburgh an automatic first down on the goal line. (-2.71 EP)
3. Ben Roethlisbeger throws to Tyler Murphy for 16 yards on 4th and 9 over Bradley Fletcher. (-3.39 EP)
2. Ben Roethlisberger throws deep to Antonio Brown for 37 yards over Malcolm Butler on 3rd and 6. (-3.54 EP)
1. Ben Roethlisberger launches a 43-yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey over Bradley Fletcher on 3rd and 8. (-3.94 EP)
While individual plays are important, it's also interesting how it affects the game script. The Steelers pulling within one touchdown early in the 4th quarter gives Pittsburgh a greater chance of winning than their score with seven seconds left on the clock. The following plays were the most important with regards to the chance of victory.
5. Tom Brady completes a 52-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski in a 21-14 game, increasing the Patriots chance of victory by 5.2%.
4. Josh Scobee misses a 46-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter of a 7-0 game, increasing the Patriots chance of victory by 6.5%.
3. Josh Scobee misses a 44-yard field goal in the 1st quarter of a scoreless game, increasing the Patriots chance of victory by 7.9%.
2. Darrius Heyward-Bey's 43-yard reception over Bradley Fletcher on 3rd and 8 increased the Steelers chance of victory by 9.1%. The Steelers were only down by 7 points at this point and this was a potential game swinging play. Luckily, Scobee missed the subsequent 46-yard field goal attempt.
1. Pat Chung's end zone pass interference increased Steelers' chance of victory 10.6%. Chung gave the Steelers a fresh set of downs on the goal line on a 3rd down play. The Steelers could've pulled within a field goal if they converted the opportunity into a touchdown, but the Patriots were skilled enough to force a false start on Pittsburgh.
Missed opportunities by the Steelers lost them the game, not any sort of behind-the-scenes trickery. They missed crucial field goals, failed to covert their biggest chances into scores, and forgot to cover Rob Gronkowski. That's all on the Steelers.