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Patriots dominate first half, somehow only lead Steelers 14-10

Luckily the Patriots get the ball after the half.

It feels like the New England Patriots dominated the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but sloppy plays and questionable coaching decisions meant the Patriots are going into the half with a 14-10 lead.

Pittsburgh won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. The Patriots defense forced a great three-and-out, thanks to a wonderful open field tackle by S Patrick Chung. Unfortunately, WR Chris Hogan fumbled the ball back to the Steelers on the very first play of the Patriots drive, giving the Steelers possession on the Patriots 45 yard line.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown found a soft zone in the Patriots defense with an in route (tell me if you’ve heard that before) to pick up 20 yards. CB Malcolm Butler intercepted an awful Landry Jones pass in the end zone to give the ball back to the Patriots.

QB Tom Brady and the Patriots offense went to work as they dink-and-dunked their way down the field until RB James White scampered into the end zone on a 19-yard catch-and-run. The Patriots went 80 yards on 13 plays and drained 7:23 off the clock.

The Patriots defense forced another 3-and-out and Brady and the offense drove 84 yards down the field on 11 plays and scored on a touchdown run by RB LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots decided to run away from Pittsburgh DT Stephon Tuitt and followed LT Nate Solder and LG Joe Thuney down the field.

Brown dusted the Patriots secondary on a 51-yard gain (the first 40+ yard play on the season against the Patriots defense) and found WR Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown catch over CB Eric Rowe and cut the lead to 14-7.

The Patriots went three-and-out after an ugly drop by RB Brandon Bolden and then P Ryan Allen shanked a 25-yard punt that barely crossed midfield.

A tacky unnecessary roughness call against LB Dont’a Hightower moved the Steelers from a 3rd and 5 and into new set of downs in field goal range, but the defense buckled down and the Steelers missed their field goal attempt.

The Patriots needed to run the 4-minute drill to score and get the ball in the second half, but they failed to sustain the drive. A drop by WR Julian Edelman and some excellent coverage by the Steelers defense forced the Patriots to punt from midfield.

Jones led the Steelers offense in the two-minute drill with checkdowns to RB Le’Veon Bell as the Steelers managed to steal a field goal before the half, cutting the Patriots lead to 14-10.

The Patriots can’t be stopped on offense without self-inflicted drops, with Blount picking up 53 yards on 13 carries and Edelman having his best game of the season with 46 yards on 7 receptions. TEs Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett have just 13 yards combined and need to be far more involved in the second half.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown has 93 yards on 5 receptions, while RB Le’Veon Bell has 83 total yards on the day. The Patriots defense is not doing a good enough job in limiting their production and the coaching staff will need to make some adjustments to tighten up the coverage on Bell out of the backfield.

The Patriots should also look to generate more pressure on Jones because he’s been Brock Osweiler-like, in the sense that he is unable to hit his receivers to sustain drives, but he can hit the deep ball to keep the Steelers in the game. The Patriots should start throwing interior pressure to prevent Jones from getting comfortable in the pocket.

The Patriots get the ball after the half.