View Full Version : Steelers Slap Patriots Back To Reality

12-01-2008, 07:06 AM
Steelers Slap Patriots Back To Reality
By Michael Felger

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Posted: Sunday, 30 November 2008 9:22PM

Steelers Slap Patriots Back To Reality

FOXBORO -- The opportunity was there for the Patriots Sunday night. The opportunity to not just jump back into a tie for first place in the AFC East and strengthen their postseason position, but, perhaps more importantly, establish themselves as a team that deserves to be taken seriously.

As it turns out, they probably don't.

Not after their 33-10 defeat to the Steelers and an utterly embarrassing, 31-minute stretch of football that just may be the defining moment of their 2008 season.

Instead of seizing the opportunity during that stretch, the Patriots dropped it, pushed it, muffed it, kicked it, whiffed it, floated it and generally puked on it. To wit ...

Dropped: That would be Randy Moss in the back of the end zone with 31 seconds left in the second quarter, booting a perfectly thrown ball by Matt Cassel that would have given the Pats a 17-10 lead and the momentum heading into the intermission.

Pushed: That would be erstwhile money kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who left the ensuing 27-yard chip shot wide right to keep it a tie game at the half.

Muffed: That would be rookie fifth round pick Matthew Slater, who plays receiver, defensive back and special teams, which is great versatility. The problem is it's hard to see what he does well. In this case, he took couldn't field an early third-quarter kickoff from the Steelers. Which led to ...

Kicked: That would be what Slater did to the ball after he muffed it, with Pittsburgh recovering and scoring on a Hines Ward touchdown two plays later to make it 20-10.

Whiffed: That would be Matt Light, who, with no hair to grab, was left grasping at air as he tried to block James Harrison around the edge. His first ole came on the Pats' first offensive snap after the Ward score and resulted in a strip sack and lost fumble to set up a Steelers field goal. Harrison did the exact same thing to Light and Cassel at the end of the third quarter for another lost fumble. In all, the Pats offensive line looked very Super Bowl XLII-ish, with Cassel getting sacked five times and facing constant pressure in his face.

Floated: That would describe some of Matt Cassel's throws on this wet, sloppy day. Saying he was off-target would be putting it kindly. The coup de grace came in garbage time when he did his best Drew Bledsoe impersonation and delivered a short swing pass into the arms of linebacker Lawrence Timmons for an 89-yard interception return. Cassel's receivers did him no favors throughout the game -- Moss had another bad drop over the middle and Jabar Gaffney had his obligatory, pathetic drop in the fourth quarter -- but this was a game where Cassel succumbed to the pressure every bit as badly as the players around him.

Puked: That's what Ellis Hobbs said he was doing on the sidelines early in the third quarter, which led to Slater running out with the return team on that fateful kickoff. Slater was certainly in the crosshairs after the game, as the poor kid couldn't even face the cameras while talking to the media from his locker stall. But who do you blame more, Slater, or the coaches who deemed he was the right person for the job? Veteran Kevin Faulk was back for the Pats on their next kickoff return, so there were clearly other options available, yet the coaches went with the rookie who has touched the ball only a handful of times as a pro.

That decision was merely a mistake. But if want to consider a move that's truly puke-inducing, look no further than the secondary, where money wasn't spent last offseason and now we all have to suffer through the atrocious play of Deltha O'Neal and his veteran minimum salary at Asante Samuel's old spot. We don't have the time or the stomach to detail all the plays O'Neal gave up; we'll only mention the two throws he gave up for touchdowns and the two others that could have reached the end zone but were dropped.

Another stat to make you ill: The Pats were 1-of-13 on third downs, with their lone conversion (other than penalties) coming on the final play of the game. The Pats were 0-for-6 in the first half and 1-for-7 in the second, telling you the coaches weren't exactly conjuring up the image of Bill Walsh with their halftime adjustments.

Bill Belichick spoke afterwards about the "opportunities" the Pats had in this ball game, and he was absolutely right. Even coming out in the third quarter, after Moss and Gostkowski had blown the chance to capture some easy momentum at the end of the second quarter, the Pats got the ball and were driving down the field. They faced a second-and-1 at the Steelers' 31 when center Dan Koppen got blown up by nose tackle Casey Hampton for a sack. Then came another failed third down and the floodgates were open.

"I thought we had momentum coming out of the half," said guard Logan Mankins. "We drove down and missed a field goal, but at least we drove down. We came back out, we're driving the ball and it was second-and one. Sack. Third-and-long. Punt. Right after that we have the fumbled kickoff return, two strip sacks and interception. You couldn't beat a Pop Warner team doing that."

Mankins was one of only a handful of Patriots to stand up and take responsibility for the team's play in the postgame locker room. Light declined comment. So did O'Neal. Moss, to his credit, did not.

"Speaking for myself, I'm very disappointed in my play," he said. "I put a lot of blame on myself."

So now the Pats hit the copasetic part of their schedule, with four very winnable games over the December calendar. If they win all four and get to 11 wins, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't secure a postseason berth. But after once again failing to build on momentum, do you really trust them to win four in a row, no matter who the opponent? Do you really trust them to do anything in the playoffs, providing they even get there?

The defense just isn't good enough to expect much. And after failing to make key plays at key times despite the opportunities to do so against Indianapolis, the Jets and now the Steelers, what makes us think they can magically start doing it in January?

The Pats needed this game, and instead they got hit in the mouth. Literally. Linebacker Pierre Woods actually left the game in the second half with what the Pats called a mouth injury. Receiver Wes Welker is also currently residing on another planet after a late shot from safety Ryan Clark.

All those shots hurt. But it's nothing compared to what the final result felt like.

A kick to the groin.

Michael Felger can be seen nightly on Comcast Sportsnet. He can be reached at mfelger@weei.com.

(We didn't just "slap" them we b*tch slapped them. - mesa)

12-01-2008, 11:11 AM
Great article, especially hearing it from one of their writters. Y'all got bitch slapped!!!

12-01-2008, 11:19 AM
"Defining moment of the season"

Although he was referring to the Pats, I do believe that yesterday may have been the game that defines this Steelers team identity.

12-01-2008, 11:19 AM
I would have prefered that they had Harrison and more importantly Brady on the field,...but i'll take it.(Big win)

And was it just me,...or was not the sound of "Here we go Steelers" being chanted from the bleachers at the end of the game on THEIR home field not one of the sweetest sounds one has ever heard ?!:helmet::chuckle: