For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots found themselves in a highly competitive road game that was not decided until late in the fourth quarter. And for the second week in a row, the Patriots fell short: the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to hold onto their 17-10 lead and come away victoriously despite New England’s offense driving deep into the red zone on its final possession of the game.
The end — failing to reach the end zone despite reaching the Pittsburgh 11-yard line — was a perfect example for what was yet another disappointing day for the Patriots, especially on offense. The unit struggled to string positive plays together and made too many mistakes to win. “[We] just didn’t get the job done,” quarterback Tom Brady said during his press conference after the game. “We have to figure out a way to do better.”
Brady, who ended the day with 25 completions on 36 pass attempts, 279 yards, and a touchdown as well as an interception, knows that the Patriots offense shares a big part of the blame today. “Obviously, we aren’t playing well enough to win,” he said. “It comes in a lot of different ways, turnovers, and just missed opportunities. That’s what it comes down to. Too many plays opportunities that we could do something with it, and we just don’t.”
New England’s red zone defense is a perfect example for that: New England drove deep into Pittsburgh territory three times but came away with just three points. The other drives ended with an interception thrown by Brady and an incompletion on fourth down. “Our defense played great, special teams played great,” the quarterback said after the game. “But we have to do better offensively. Tough loss.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did not specifically mention his team’s offensive performance during his very own postgame press conference. However, he still pointed out some of the team’s issues. “They say penalties in the red area are pretty much the difference in a game, so we need to do a better job there,” Belichick said during his opening statement after the contest.
“I was proud of our guys, how we battled all the way from the first play to the last,” New England’s head coach continued. “In the end, we just came up a little short. They made a few more plays than we did. [...] It’s one of those typical tough football games against the Steelers, and like I said, they did a little more than we did tonight. That’s pretty much the story the way I saw it.”
The story also included the Steelers playing a very sound game against the Patriots, and being in control pretty much from the get-go. “Give the Steelers credit,” Belichick said about the current AFC North leaders and number one playoff seed in the conference. “They played well, did a good job. It’s a good football team. [...] They do a good job in every area, so everything is a challenge with them.”
“We were playing against a great team; they made some great plays,” running back Sony Michel added. The first-round rookie also looked at his very own team — and like Belichick before him appeared to be happy with the squad’s overall performance and the fight it showed. “The guys on this team still fought hard,” Michel told reporters. “They still kept their head in the game and that’s what it’s all about.”
Safety Duron Harmon, who registered two interceptions on the day, shared similarly positive takeaways. “We played solid football down the stretch when it mattered the most,” Harmon said. “Fourth quarter we did some things that went well. Just knowing it’s the group of guys that we have. Great guys, guys that put a lot into it and we obviously have to put more into it because for whatever reason, what we want to happen isn’t happening.”
“We are in a tough spot obviously,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said after the defeat. “We put ourselves in a tough spot, but at the same time, we haven’t lost our belief in each other and we still have a lot to play for. There’s really no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to figure it out and keep competing and keep trying to improve.”
Harmon sounds optimistic that the Patriots will be able to do just that over the next two weeks to build some much-needed momentum heading towards the playoffs. “I know the type of group that we have, we all come ready to work” the 27-year old said. “We are going to fix it, for sure. We are going to be better next week and when we get another opportunity to play on the road, we will be better and do everything we can to get a win.”