One of the major keys to the Steelers pulling out the victory over the Patriots was keeping them from holding a lead at any point if the game. I have always been someone who likes the notion of deferring when given the option and taking the ball in the second half. I did it every time as a coach. But by taking the ball and executing a touchdown drive, the Steelers put themselves in the driver seat to dictate what they wanted to do in the game.
The Steelers had an average starting position of their own 18 yard line against the Patriots. Even though every drive started inside their own 30-yard line, the Steelers achieved at least one first down on every drive which helped significantly in the field position battle.
The danger in taking the ball to start the game was giving New England a chance to pull off back-to-back scores to end the first half and to start the second. Not only did the Patriots score zero points in both of those drives, they were not able to move the ball across midfield before being forced to punt.
With the exception of the interception in the fourth quarter, the Steelers held every starting driver for the Patriots at or inside their own 25 yard line. Even after both interceptions, New England took over in their own half the field. Making the Patriots drive the length of the field was key in the Steelers holding them to 10 points.
0 vs 3
Although the Steelers lost the turnover battle, they outscored New England 3-0 in points off of turnovers. In the drives following each of Ben Roethlisberger’s interceptions, the Patriots went three and out and threw and threw their own interception in the red zone. After getting the lone turnover on their own four yard line, the Steelers went 66 yards in 5:13 before kicking a 48-yard field goal to take a 7-point lead.
When the Steelers received the ball with just over a minute left in the first quarter at their own 8 yard line, the drive got off to a rough start after a David DeCastro hold moved them back to the four. With the previous drive finishing with two sacks in three plays, it was imperative the Steelers do something offensively. What transpired was the Steelers moving 96 yards in 8 plays to take a lead which they would never relinquish.
After torching the Steelers year after year, it wouldn’t be fair to not mention the job the Steelers defense did against Rob Gronkowski. With only two catches on five targets for 21 yards, the Brady-Gronk connection was never able to get going. It was his fewest number of catches and yards since the Patriots Week-2 loss in Jacksonville.
I know it is a repeat number, but it wasn’t until the clock hit 0:00 in the forth quarter when I finally felt comfortable the Steelers were actually going to beat the Patriots.
Feel free to share your favorite numbers from Sunday’s game in the comments below.