On Monday Night Football in Week 14, the unthinkable happened. The New England Patriots went to Florida to play the Miami Dolphins, and the Patriots dropped their third game of the season.
It isn’t just that the Patriots lost, but how they lost. The offense didn’t have a third-down conversion for the entire game. The last time that happened to New England? 1991.
While some Pittsburgh Steelers fans might be getting excited with the prospect of a not-so-invincible Patriots offense coming to Heinz Field — think again.
Tom Brady has duds from time to time, and they usually happen down in South Beach, just like last night. But Brady isn’t a quarterback who stays down very long. You can count the times the Patriots have lost back-to-back games on two hands during the Belichick/Brady era. So, in other words, Steelers fans should expect a high-flying affair on Sunday.
The Steelers are coming off of a 39-point output against one of the best defensive units in the NFL, but the defense surrendered 38-points to a very mundane Ravens offense. There’s a good chance this upcoming AFC marquee matchup turns into a shootout early, and often.
The next question which needs to be answered is whether the Steelers can hang with Brady, Rob Gronkowski, et al. Or will the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster prove too much even for the Pats?
Only time will tell...
Time to check on the other news surrounding the Steelers, outside the walls of BTSC:
Since the start of the 2000s, a few constant sports-related questions have hung over Pittsburgh:
• Will the Pirates ever sign a big-name free agent?
• Will Pitt and Penn State ever play annually again?
• Will the Steelers ever slow down Tom Brady?
In the first 17 years of the century the answers have been:
• No way
• Yeah, right
• We'll believe it when we see it.
Well, don't expect to see it this Sunday when Brady and New England come to town.
And Pittsburgh shouldn't approach this game like it will.
If the Steelers are to beat the Patriots on Sunday, they should be ready to do it the same way they just beat Baltimore: in a shootout.
No, that wasn't beloved “AFC North football.” It was more like Big-12 football.
It might need to be that way again against the Patriots.
For the Steelers, the elephant is no longer in the room. It's out in the open for all to see and is preparing to make its way to Heinz Field on Sunday.
The rest of the circus is sure to follow.
After two weeks of refusing to look ahead to the New England Patriots, as coach Mike Tomlin uncharacteristically did in his NBC interview with Tony Dungy, the Steelers are free to embrace the biggest game in the AFC — and perhaps the NFL — this season.
At least one high-profile Steelers player did just that in the aftermath of the team's 39-38 win Sunday night over the Baltimore Ravens that was their eighth in a row and clinched the AFC North championship.
“The Patriots are what it's all about,” wide receiver and MVP candidate Antonio Brown said after catching 11 passes for 213 yards. “It's a new week. It's a big week and an exciting week. We're looking forward to those guys coming into our house.”
Ever since off-season workouts began in the spring, the Steelers have talked about making the road to the Super Bowl go through Heinz Field and not having to go back to New England in the playoffs after last year's 36-17 loss in the AFC championship game to the eventual Super Bowl champions.
When the NFL schedule was released in April, this December game against the Patriots was circled on the Steelers' calendar. CBS put the game in its coveted 4:25 p.m. time slot and, a few weeks ago, protected the matchup so it couldn't be flexed to a prime-time slot on NBC.
Neither team has done anything to diminish the anticipation surrounding the game. While the Steelers have an NFL-best 11-2 record, the Patriots were 10-2 and also winners of eight in a row heading into their game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
The New England Patriots lost a game in Miami to the Dolphins, snapping their 8-game win streak and preventing the team from clinching the AFC East for yet another week. Tom Brady put together his second-straight “blah-to-bad” performance, combining to complete 45 of 73 passes (61.6%) for 491 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions for a passer rating of 68.9.
Brady looked scared of the pressure early and struggled to throw to his receivers by the sidelines. While the loss of Rob Gronkowski certainly impacted the offense’s potential, Brady was missing his targets all night.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo has led the San Francisco 49ers to a 2-0 record over these past two weeks with a passer rating of 87.0, despite a much weaker supporting cast.
So I think it’s important to ask head coach Bill Belichick whether he regrets making the trade after seeing the past two weeks.