The 2019 NFL season is underway and it started well for the New England Patriots: the reigning world champion blew the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers out 33-3 in a game that was only close for the first few minutes of the opening quarter. Too good were the Patriots in all three phases of the game, too efficient and deep their roster to ever let the visitors come close to challenging the ever-growing lead.
With that in mind, let’s recap the contest.
LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Joejuan Williams, SS Obi Melifonwu, WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Damien Harris, OL Korey Cunningham, DT Byron Cowart
QB Joshua Dobbs, S Sean Davis, CB Justin Layne, OG Fred Johnson, OL Chukwuma Okorafor, TE Zach Gentry, DE Isaiah Buggs
LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Joe Thuney, C Ted Karras, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Ryan Izzo, QB Tom Brady, WR Josh Gordon, WR Julian Edelman, FB James Develin, RB Sony Michel
DL Shilique Calhoun, DL Lawrence Guy, DL Michael Bennett, LB John Simon, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Jamie Collins Sr, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Jason McCourty, CB Jonathan Jones, S Patrick Chung, S Devin McCourty
The Patriots lost the coin toss and in turn received the opening kickoff, with Brandon Bolden returning it to the 20-yard line. The offense then began by running the football on five straight plays with varying levels of success: while New England did gain a new set of downs at one point, the team soon found itself in a 3rd and 10 situation. Tom Brady’s first pass attempt of the night fell incomplete and the Patriots sent out Jake Bailey to punt.
Bailey’s punt was a beauty, as it sailed for 53 yards and did not allow a return. Pittsburgh started its first series of the day at its own 11-yard line, but moved the football well and gained two first downs behind a healthy mix of run and pass. However, New England’s defense stiffened up after the first few plays and ultimately forced a punt thanks to a pass breakup by recently extended slot cornerback Jonathan Jones.
New England’s second possession was more productive than the first one: the world champions drove 82 yards in seven plays — including a double-pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman to James White that covered 32 yards. On the very next play, Brady found Josh Gordon on a short crossing pattern and the second-year Patriot took the pass 20 yards to the end zone for the first touchdown of the season. [Patriots 7 : 0 Steelers)
The Patriots’ offense picked up the pace late in the first quarter, and the defense did the same: the unit forced a quick three-and-out after Gordon’s touchdown to get the ball back to the offense. And after a 20-yard punt return by undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski, the unit marched right down the field again — fellow undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers had a 22-yard catch along the way — and ended the first quarter with a 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 29-yard line.
New England’s offense continued its momentum early in the second period, with catches by Gordon and Edelman helping the team move the football close to the Pittsburgh goal line. However, the drive stalled at that part of the field and the Patriots ultimately had to settle for a 25-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The kick split the uprights and put the home team up by 10 points. [Patriots 10 : 0 Steelers]
The Patriots’ success continued as soon as the defense was back on the field: the unit forced a punt after another three plays, with defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Shilique Calhoun coming up big on the run-stop on 3rd and 1. The ensuing kick again saw rookie returnman Gunner Olszewski show his value, as he ran back the punt 15 more yards. Needless to say that New England was performing well in all three phases.
However, the team’s offense failed to do much on the next drive and instead had to punt the football to the Steelers after just three plays. Following a 32-yard kick from Jake Bailey, the defense was back on the field — but quickly off it again: while Pittsburgh gained one first down via penalty, the series went nowhere with Jamie Collins making a terrific play on a 3rd and 1 run to stop it for a 4-yard loss.
Following another Steelers punt, the Patriots offense went back to work again right away. While it had to start at its own 20-yard line, it took the group just six plays to find the end zone again. Play-action passes from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman moved the football down the field, while a touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett from 25 yards out put New England ahead 17-to-zip. [Patriots 17 : 0 Steelers]
BRADY DIME TO DORSETT FOR THE 25 YARD TOUCHDOWN!!! pic.twitter.com/g3Ts9wppmh— #BOOMIN (@ftbeard_17) September 9, 2019
Pittsburgh answered by moving the football to the Patriots’ 47-yard line in six plays, but the drive stalled again: coming out of the two-minute warning, the Steelers went for it on 4th and 1 but failed to convert as Patrick Chung broke up a pass attempt to force a turnover on downs. New England was able to take advantage of the de facto take away, by moving 30 yards in eight plays to set up another Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The veteran made the 41-yarder to extend his team’s lead. [Patriots 20 : 0 Steelers]
The Steelers ran one play on the next drive before letting the clock run out on the first half.
Pittsburgh opened the second half with the football, and was able to finally get on the scoreboard: the Steelers marched 74 yards in 11 plays — including a pair of conversions on third down (a 45-yard pass over Jason McCourty; a holding penalty against Stephon Gilmore) — but ultimately had to settle for a field goal. New England’s defense held near the goal line and forced the visitors to go for three. [Patriots 20 : 3 Steelers]
Even with Pittsburgh on the board, the Patriots did not get thrown off course. In fact, they answered with another touchdown drive: the team went 75 yards in just four plays with Tom Brady and Phillip Dorsett connecting on a 58-yard score on 3rd and 10 — the second time that the two hooked up for a touchdown. [Patriots 27 : 3 Steelers]
The visitors again failed to respond to the Patriots’ score. While Pittsburgh moved the football comparatively well, the result was the same: the Steelers were forced to punt. New England, meanwhile, moved into scoring range yet again with a 44-yard pass from Tom Brady to Josh Gordon as the series’ defining play. Ultimately, however, Josh McDaniels’ unit again had to settle for a field goal. Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard attempt was good to increase the club’s lead to 27 points. [Patriots 30 : 3 Steelers]
New England’s defensive dominance continued following Gostkowski’s third field goal of the day. While Pittsburgh did hold the ball for eight plays, the team gained only 30 yards and had to turn the football over on downs again: Ben Roethlisberger’s pass attempt fell incomplete against the Patriots’ stout coverage, which allowed the team to start its next possession at its own 45-yard line. And again, New England made the possession count — at least somewhat.
The team drove 45 yards in 13 plays, but ultimately had to settle for another field goal: Gostkowski hit the 39-yarder to put his team up 33-3. However, the team lost starting right tackle Marcus Cannon along the way with an apparent left arm injury. With the Patriots’ most experienced offensive lineman out, left guard Joe Thuney moved over to fill the right tackle spot with Jermanie Eluemunor being inserted into the lineup at left tackle. [Patriots 33 : 3 Steelers]
The Steelers’ next series ended with the game’s first turnover: Patriots safety Devin McCourty was able to pick off Roethlisberger in the end zone on a deep passing attempt. New England did not do much with the takeaway, however, and instead punted the football right back to its opponent after only three plays. Pittsburgh failed to do anything on its next possession, and the play ended with a short pass as time ran out.