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Steelers 17, Patriots 10: 10 quick thoughts from another classic in Pittsburgh

Ryan Hannable
December 16, 2018 - 7:22 pm
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PITTSBURGH — It wasn't like any of the other classics between the two teams, but Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game was another thriller.

Both teams gifted each other with multiple chances to win the game, but in the end the Steelers were able to come away with a 17-10 win. The loss drops the Patriots to 9-5 on the year.

After the Patriots turned the ball over in the red zone midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers picked up two third-down conversions and ultimately iced the game on a Chris Boswell field goal. The biggest issue for the Patriots in the game was their run defense, which has been brutal the past few weeks.

Following the Boswell 48-yard field goal with just over two minutes to play, the Patriots had a chance to tie the game and got into the red zone, but could not find the end zone when the Steelers clamped down on the Patriots' biggest threats.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the game.

1. Tom Brady was average in this one and it is his interception in the red zone that many will be talking about afterwards. The 41-year-old went 25-for-36 with 279 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Patriots had issues getting the ball into their playmakers' hands as Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon and James White had below average games.

2. Penalties were a major issue for the Patriots once again. They committed a season-high 14 penalties for 106 yards, which isn't going to get it done against any team. A huge penalty came prior to the Brady interception, as that moved the ball back outside the 10-yard line. This is not something we're used to seeing from a Bill Belichick-coached team, and they were the difference in the game.

3. The Patriots defense primarily played dime with a ton of defensive backs on the field, which was basically daring the Steelers to run the ball. When they did, they had a ton of success, finishing with 160 yards on 24 carries. This is becoming a major issue for the Patriots defense and will be something that needs to get addressed in a hurry. One quick fix is having defensive tackle Danny Shelton active. He’s been a healthy scratch in the last three.

4. Brady had a very bad interception midway through the fourth quarter when he was trying to throw the ball away in the red zone but instead had it intercepted by Joe Haden. The quarterback was likely trying to throw the ball out of bounds, but the ball didn't reach the sideline and Haden made a great play. Brady had done a good job of taking care of the ball in recent games. That was a killer.

5. Josh McDaniels continues to be a master at designing and scripting plays. Chris Hogan could not have been any more wide open on his 63-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ first offensive possession. The Steelers had three players covering Gordon, and no one within 30 yards of Hogan. It was a great play design by McDaniels that had the Steelers defense very confused.

6. As was expected, the Patriots gave cornerback JC Jackson a big assignment in covering Smith-Schuster. The rookie held his own, as he certainly has a lot of fight, but his big issue is he sometimes doesn’t know where the ball is. Ben Roethlisberger certainly knew that and picked on him quite a bit. The New England defense did a nice job overall in pass defense; it was the run defense that was the big issue.

7. The Patriots executed one of the best punt coverages you’ll see in the middle of the second quarter. Ryan Allen had a punt fall inside the 5-yard line where Jonathan Jones dove and saved the ball from going into the end zone and then Rex Burkhead alertly dove too, this time throwing the ball back into play to force the Steelers to start at their own 1-yard line.

8. Overall, the Patriots got better run production than in previous weeks. Sony Michel ran for 59 yards on 13 carries. This was a positive for the unit after really struggling the last two games. It also helped keep the Steelers off the field, as for most of the first half they were dominating the time of possession.

9. It seems something is up with White as the running back hasn't been the same since getting nicked up against the Packers. He hasn't been used even close to as much as he was earlier in the year and that was shown by just one first quarter snap. Perhaps they are preserving him for the playoffs, but it just seems like something isn't right with the running back. Maybe the use earlier in the year is catching up.

10. The loss now has the Patriots out of the No. 2 seed and into the No. 3 spot trailing the Texans. As of now, the Patriots would be hosting a game on wild card weekend.

Harmon now has five interceptions over the course of his six-game career against Pittsburgh.

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