After loss to Browns, Patriots put together complete game
By Scott Brown
Monday, November 15, 2010
The Patriots seemingly turned back the clock Sunday night and in more ways than one.
Tom Brady threw for 350 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and a defense that had been embarrassed a week earlier made the Steelers look bad in a 39-26 win at Heinz Field.
The Patriots, coming off a 34-14 loss to the Browns, put together the kind of complete performance that called to mind the teams that dominated the first half of the 2000s and beat the Steelers in two AFC titles games here.
The Steelers, by contrast, appeared to be flat, particularly on defense.
They never led in the nationally televised contest and suffered their worst home loss under coach Mike Tomlin.
“We all lost,” Tomlin said, “including me.”
Outdueled by Brady, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns but did most of his damage after the Patriots had built a big lead.
The Steelers played much of the game without wide receiver Hines Ward, who sustained a concussion near the end of the first quarter and was not allowed to return to the game much to his chagrin.
The Steelers’ night turned out to be as bleak as the gray, rainy day that preceded it.
A patchwork offensive line allowed five sacks -- the Patriots had only 13 through the first eight games of the season -- and Jeff Reed’s struggles continued in front of an announced crowd of 64,359.
Reed missed a 26-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter after a Steelers drive stalled inside New England’s 10-yard line.
“We got our butts whipped, plain and simple,” Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. “I don’t like feeling like this.”
The Patriots improved to 7-2 and are 4-1 in their last five games at Heinz Field.
The Steelers (6-3) had a chance to tie the Jets and Falcons for the best record in the NFL.
Instead, they dropped to 2-2 at home and will try to get back on course next week against the 5-4 Raiders at Heinz Field.
The Patriots set the tone before late-arriving tailgates arrived when they forced a three and out on the first possession and then went right through the Steelers defense.
Brady was his usual precise self on the Patriots’ as he moved New England 70 yards on eight plays -- and made it look easy in the process.
Brady, whose offensive line generally gave him enough time to take an unofficial head count at Heinz Field as well as survey the field, capped the drive by rifling a pass through a narrow opening and into the arms of tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 19-yard touchdown, the first of three scores for the Woodland Hills graduate.
The Patriots added to their lead later in the quarter as Shayne Graham kicked a 31-yarder but the Steelers’ defense kept New England off the scoreboard for the rest of the half.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they only managed a 22-yard Reed field goal through the first two quarters. The Steelers couldn’t get their passing game going as Roethlisberger (7 of 20 passing in the first half) struggled with his accuracy and did not get a lot of help from his receivers.
On the Steelers’ only scoring drive of the first half Mike Wallace and Antwaan Randle El each dropped catchable passes in the end zone and they had to settle for a 22-yard field goal.
The Patriots increased their lead to 14 early in the third quarter after Brady picked apart one of the best defenses in the NFL in directing a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive.
New England put the game away midway through the fourth quarter when James Sanders returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots at 29-10 lead.
“You’ve got to give Brady credit,” Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. “He executed probably as well as any quarterback did all season. Defensively, we didn’t give our team a chance.”
Scott Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org