clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ability to close out win over Steelers a ‘huge confidence booster’ for the Patriots

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 17-14 win over Steelers

Up 17-14 in its Week 2 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots offense took the field with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter. After punting on two straight possessions, the goal was obvious: drain as much time off the clock as possible, while potentially adding some more points to the total to effectively seal the game.

The Patriots did not do that latter part. They didn’t need to.

With the running game moving the ball by mixing gap and zone concepts, and with Mac Jones being on point on his lone pass attempt of the series, the Patriots methodically marched down the field and into winning territory. Four first downs and almost five minutes of game time later, they found themselves in the Pittsburgh red zone. More importantly, they found themselves in the victory formation.

The Patriots’ final drive of the game to seal their victory was a promising one. A 13-play, 56-yard march that did not leave the opponent any chances to come back, it also instilled some confidence into what was at times a shaky unit on Sunday.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Obviously, we’re still not where we want to be and it’ll be a long time before we get there, but closing the game out like that, ending the game with the ball in our hands as an offense, is a huge confidence booster,” said running back Damien Harris after the game.

“That’s just another step that we can take, going into next week because we have another tough opponent coming up next week. But the way we finished this game, it’s a good stepping stone in the right direction of continuing to become the team that we want to be.”

Harris did much of the heavy lifting on the final possession, carrying the football four times for 28 yards. Two of his runs moved the chains, including his final 5-yard carry to convert a 3rd-and-3 deep in Steelers territory.

At that point, the home team was out of timeouts and options to prevent New England from kneeling out the game.

“That’s every team’s goal,” said Mac Jones. “The teams that win in the NFL do that. You try to watch the weekly NFL and see what teams did that well. If you can close out a game and if you do that and you don’t have to score, you just got to move in and get first downs and the time just runs out. That’s usually how it goes. NFL games come down to the wire almost every week. And I learned that, obviously, last year and this year.

“So, great job Damien and Rhamondre [Stevenson] running the ball and the offensive line for opening the holes.”

Up until that point, the Patriots again were hit and miss on the offensive side of the ball. The unit had scored just 17 points, suffered a turnover on an ill-advised Jones interception, and failed to put the Steelers away after despite several opportunities.

Midway through the fourth quarter, however, the team finally capitalized one on. Behind a defense that had forced back-to-back three-and-outs, the Patriots took the field and did what it was supposed to do.

“It’s a part of the winning formula: you want to finish with the ball,” said wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

“I think if you look at us last year — we don’t so much talk about that but if you talk about last year — four-minute drives weren’t in our favor. We want the four-minute drive, end of the game, milking the clock, finishing with the ball and being in victory formation. That’s important. Most championship teams see a lot of those because they win the right way; they get the last shot, they have possession; they kneel and run the clock out.”

New England did just that on Sunday, much to the delight of the offensive players and the team’s head coach alike.

“It was great to be able to hang on to the ball at the end there,” said Bill Belichick. “Our backs ran hard, and our line gave them some space to run. We were able to control on [four] first downs. I think it was a little over six minutes when we got the ball back. You always want to end up kneeling on the ball.”

The Patriots did just that, and were therefore able to end a hard-fought game on a high note — and to build some momentum heading into their home opener versus Baltimore next week.