I love it when the Steelers win. When they beat the New England Patriots, that’s even better. And when they totally kick the Patriots’ arses, well, that’s like Christmas in November.
On Sunday, Christmas came early to Steelers fans when the black and gold defeated the New England Patriots 33-10.
The game started off badly, when Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on the Steelers’ very first possession. Former Steeler Mike Vrabel intercepted Big Ben’s pass, and the Patriots started their first drive on the Steelers’ 14 yard line. Patriots’ quarterback Matt Cassel, who was coming off of consecutive 400+ yard passing games, took over and three plays later, the Patriots were in the endzone. 7-0 Patriots.
The first half remained a hard-fought battle, and the two teams went into their locker rooms at halftime tied 10-10. But that would be the last time that the Patriots were in the game.
Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the best in the business when it comes to making halftime adjustments. Those adjustments became evident when the Steelers completely shut down the Patriots in the second half. After gaining 186 yards in the first half, and scoring 10 points, the Patriots were completely shut out in the second half and held to only 81 yards of second half offense. The Steelers forced 5 Patriots turnovers in the 2nd half. After leading 10-3 at one point in the game, the Patriots were then outscored 30-0. Ouch!
One of the Steelers most responsible for keeping the Patriots in check in the second half was linebacker James Harrison. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Harrison that he doesn’t have to cause a forced fumble every time he sacks a quarterback. Twice Harrison sacked Matt Cassel, and each time he forced Cassel to fumble the ball. In case anyone is wondering, Harrison actually leads the NFL in forced fumbles (with 6). Sacks may be more glamorous, but a forced fumble is actually more valuable to the team.
Another Steeler defender who played a critical role in the win was safety Troy Polamalu. Polamalu collected his league leading sixth interception. Polamalu almost had a seventh, but he dropped one that was right in his hands.
But perhaps the most valuable player on the Steelers’ defense was safety Ryan Clark. Clark leveled Patriots’ receiver Wes Welker with a devastating hit that knocked Welker out of the game. Welker is the Patriots’ leading receiver, and without him, the Patriots were never able to find their rhythm. (To see Clark’s hit on Welker, click here).
On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers had one of their highest scoring outings of the season. But scores can be deceptive. The Steelers still struggle to put the ball in the end zone when they reach the opponent’s red zone. Far too often, they have settled for field goals when they should have had touchdowns. Nobody is going to complain about a 33 point outing, but if the Steelers really want to be a championship caliber team, their offense has got to raise their game. Roethlisberger has got to stop throwing unforced interceptions. The running game has got to start imposing it’s will upon opponents. Otherwise, the Steelers will make the playoffs, but fall short of the ultimate prize.
With their win, the Steelers (9-3) remained one game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (8-4) in the AFC North. In the meantime, the Patriots dropped to a second place tie with Miami in the AFC East. Most importantly for New England, the loss dropped the Patriots a game behind the Ravens and Colts in the AFC wild card race.
For a more humorous look at the game, please see our Steelers vs. Patriots Recap Haiku by clicking here.
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