Patriots vs. Steelers thumbs up, thumbs down: James White, Phillip Dorsett pace offense

Andy Hart
September 08, 2019 - 11:41 pm

FOXBOROUGH – Shortly after a pregame ceremony to unveil the team’s sixth title banner commemorating last February’s Super Bowl LIII win, the Patriots got right to work on 2019 in impressive fashion in a Sunday night battle against the rival Steelers.

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James White, Josh Gordon and the defense got things going early as Bill Belichick’s team controlled the first half on the way to a 20-0 lead at halftime. Shaking off a relatively slow start, Tom Brady’s passing attack picked up steam in the second quarter and kept rolling with big plays in the second half on the way to a 33-3 victory in which TB12 completed 24 of 36 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 124.9 rating.

Here are a few of the many personnel highs and few lows from New England’s impressive season-opening victory.

Thumbs up

James White – On a night when the Patriots celebrated past Super Bowls, the star of the comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI was at his dual-threat best. White got the offense going early with runs of 8 and 7 yards that led up to a 32-yard catch-and-run on a double pass from Julian Edelman to set up the opening score. Lining up in the backfield and out wide, White was a key cog in the offense in the first half. Overall, White finished rushing four times for 26 yards and catching five passes for another 56 yards even though he never touched the ball in the second half of the easy win.

Julian Edelman – After a little bit of a slow start, Brady’s connection to Edelman picked up later in the first half with consecutive completions of 16 and 24 yards that set up a 25-yard Phillip Dorsett touchdown. Edelman finished the first half with three catches on six targets for 49 yards. He was also involved in a little trickery on a double pass from Brady that he threw across the field to White for the 32-yard catch-and-run gain. Edelman finished the night with game highs in targets (11) and receptions (6) for 83 yards.

Defense – The Steelers were 0 for their first 4 chances on third down and just 1 for 6 in the first half overall, not including a fourth-down stop. New England used a lot of bodies in the back end and mixed up some matchups, showing the talent and depth of the defense holding Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers scoreless in the first 30 minutes when the visitors had a mere 87 total yards. Stephon Gilmore chased JuJu Smith-Schuster most of the night holding the young receiver in check until late. Devin McCourty then closed the door on the win with an interception in the end zone in the final minutes. The defense has been getting plenty of attention and hype in New England this summer and opened the season looking like the praise is justified.

Phillip Dorsett – More of a complementary player for his time in Foxborough, the veteran hit a couple big plays for his first career multi-touchdown game against Pittsburgh. The first came on pretty 25-yard strike down the seam in the second quarter. He then got the second-half scoring going with a 58-yard bomb from Brady in which he got behind the Steelers secondary on a blown coverage for the easy score. Dorsett finished the night with four catches on four targets for 95 yards, having now caught 20 straight regular season passes thrown his way.

Thumbs down

Sony Michel – The second-year back lost yards on two of his first three carries of the night and never really produced on the ground while his teammates found room to run. Michel who had just 10 carries for 36 yards in the preseason, had just 11 yards on his first eight rushes of the season in the first half against Pittsburgh, including four rushes for 1 yard or less. Michel took on the lead back role to try to run out the clock on the victory with no success, finishing with 15 carries for an ugly 14 yards overall. Not a good night for the young back in his first game since his impressive postseason run last winter.

Ted Karras – It wasn’t a train wreck by any means, but Karras wasn’t exactly perfect either. The veteran backup started in place of captain David Andrews, who’s on IR with blood clots in his lungs. Karras’ shotgun snaps were slightly off target and seemed to float a bit most of the night. He was also the middle man in a line that failed to get Michel going for much production between the tackles against a solid Steelers front.

Jason McCourty – On a night when most things went right for the home squad, McCourty was on the short end of one of the few positive big plays for the Steelers. McCourty seemed to let up ever-so-slightly while covering James Washington down the right sideline early in the third quarter, leading to a 45-yard completion to the second-year wideout that set up Pittsburgh’s only points of the night on a 19-yard field goal.