This is what we learned from the Patriots 27-16 victory over the Steelers.
The Patriots receivers struggled to get open all day
Other than WR Julian Edelman on low crossers in front of the Steelers linebackers, or TE Rob Gronkowski getting behind the Steelers linebackers, the Patriots receivers struggled to get open. WR Chris Hogan fumbled on the opening drive, TE Martellus Bennett and WR Danny Amendola were nowhere to be seen, and RB James White didn’t record a catch after his first quarter touchdown.
RB LeGarrette Blount won the day
QB Tom Brady orchestrated a few nice drives, but it was Blount and his hard nosed running that set up more manageable 2nd and 3rd downs, and he picked up a few nice chunk carries throughout the day. He finished with 24 carries, 127 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
The offensive line had a rough day
There was one series where LT Nate Solder allowed a pressure and then was flagged for two holding calls. That kind of summed up the night. I thought that LG Joe Thuney and RT Marcus Cannon were good in pass protection, but the others weren’t as consistent. The left side did a nice job in the running game, so they deserve some credit.
Where was the Patriots pass rush?
I thought that the Patriots could have gone into the game with one of two strategies: they could either play tight coverage and force back-up QB Landry Jones to hold the ball and panic, or they could rush Jones and force him to get rid of the ball. Instead, they played zone defense without much of a pass rush at all. There was little adjustment in the second half, either. Usually there’s a justification for the pass rush (they don’t rush against mobile QBs), but there was no reason today.
Who did the Patriots try to eliminate from the Steelers offense?
Usually the Patriots try to pick the best offensive player on the other team and try to eliminate them. This forces their opponent to win with their 2nd or 3rd options. RB Le’Veon Bell picked up 149 yards from scrimmage. WR Antonio Brown picked up 119 yards from scrimmage. What exactly was the Patriots defensive strategy, other than the base expectation that Landry Jones wouldn’t be good enough?
Another shaky day for Stephen Gostkowski
The Patriots kicker missed another extra point attempt. Sure, he made three other extra points, but he should be automatic. Luckily the Steelers kicker missed two field goals of his own, or else Gostkowski’s miss might be in greater focus.