This is the (rather delayed) continuation of my game-by-game analysis of the 2010 Steelers season. If you have missed the previous eight posts and want to check them out, the links are at the end of the article.
<Groan> There's no help for it - it's time to look at the infamous game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a shame that the group we fielded looked more like our AAA players than the team that had grabbed the #1 spot in the AFC North some weeks earlier. The choice of photo of Ron Gronkowski celebrating a TD is something that we saw a LOT - Gronkowski, a Pittsburgh native, had three touchdowns that night.
This game was especially painful for me because I was in attendance. The ticket was my Christmas present from my husband. Fortunately, both my husband and the Steelers made it up to me with more gratifying gifts in December. But let's get this over with:
Game 9 - Final Score: New England Patriots 39, Pittsburgh Steelers 26
General Game Overview:
The Steelers had just played a three game road series, ending with a Monday Night Football game against the Bengals. (They won 2 out of 3 of the road games - @ Miami and @ Cincinnati, and lost @ New Orleans.) This meant that they came into the game off a short week, after three weeks away from home. Despite this, they were the favorites, by between 3.5 and 4.5. After all, the Steelers were at home, the Patriots were a mostly young team that were considered to be somewhat in a rebuilding phase, and the Patriots had also just laid a huge (34-14) egg in Clevelend against the Colt McCoy-led Browns.
But there were two statistics that should have given pause to the people setting the odds. The first is Tom Brady's win/loss record against the Steelers. It is probably fair to say that Brady owns the Steelers - he was 5-1 against them, (now 6-1) beginning with the 2001 AFC Championship game. (It's not just us - Brady is 16-3 against the AFC North.) Brady has an average 100.7 passer rating against the Steelers - the highest of any quarterback in team history that has thrown at least 150 passes.
The second is the Patriot's record after a loss. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Patriots had lost a total of 25 games in the regular season. In the week after a loss, they had only lost a second game 3 times, and one of those was a playoff game (the first after the end of the regular season.) That's a pretty stunning statistic. Apparently Bill Belichick doesn't like to lose. (I picture him in a dank chamber deep in the bowels of the Foxboro practice facilities, "discussing" with offending players the deficiencies in the previous game, but that's pure speculation ; )
Whatever motivational tools the New England staff used, the Patriots came out ready to knock heads and take names. The Steelers appeared to have more pressing business elsewhere. The statistics don't tell the whole sorry story, because the Steelers picked up a bunch of passing yards after all hope was basically gone. The Patriots took the lead after their first series and never relinquished it. The fourth quarter began with the score NE 23, PIT 3, so I suppose we can take comfort in the fact that the final score doesn't look any worse than it does.
Game 9 Notables and Stats:
Passing, Tom Brady - 350 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT (Brady also rushed for a TD, giving him 4 on the night)
NE historically averaged a 27% to 73% run/pass average against the Steelers in the Bill Belichick era. In this game they had a 36% to 63% ratio. The Steelers run/pass ratio? 25% to 75% (16/49.)