Patriots vs Steelers: Keys to Defeat

Patriots lose to Steelers

The Patriots will need to come together as a defensive unit to salvage their hopes for another Superbowl run.

NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed

Even the most optimistic Patriots fans out there have to notice the holes in this team at this point, right? I’m a pretty even keeled sports fan.

Through years of talking to sports fans (typically Boston sports fans), there’s nothing I hate more than the “sky is falling” sports fan who immediately wants to blow up the team, blow up the coaching staff, etc. etc. after a big loss.

That being said, this 2011 Patriots team has some major issues.

Since this post is a “Keys to Victory/Defeat” it will tend to run overly positive or negative depending on the outcome of the game. This post will clearly run toward the more negative side, so I figured before I start criticizing the team left and right, here are some things I thought the Patriots did well:

-Stopping the run. Sure, they still can’t tackle, but they do a great job of swarm tackling and other than two long runs (18 and 16 yards) the Pats did a great job of limiting Mendenhall & co.

-Taking the top off the field. To limit Mike Wallace to 10 yards/catch average is an accomplishment in its own right. Wallace didn’t continue his 40 yard catch streak and while it might have hindered my fantasy team, it was nice to see the Patriots secondary could do one thing well in this game. The Patriots only allowed two plays 20 yards or more.

-Getting to Big Ben. Now, some might look at the two sacks on Roethlisberger and think “those were garbage time sacks, they shouldn’t count as a positive.” I disagree, the Patriots needed to make stops there and it was huge to take the Steelers out of field goal range. The Pats are going to have to bite the bullet on run coverage and start playing Mark Anderson (one sack, one pressure, 23 snaps) more across from Andre Carter (two sacks). Kyle Love had another nice game for the Pats, recording three pressures and one sack. Albert Haynesworth quietly got some decent pressure on Roethlisberger as well with four pressures.

-The tight ends had nice games. Gronkowski finished with seven receptions, 94 yards and some nice blocking, Aaron Hernandez finished with two receptions for nine yards, a TD and a very nice block on a Rob Gronkowski catch on Ryan Mundy.

-They technically won the turnover battle. Brady essentially lost the fumble at the end of the game, but a. the Steelers didn’t recover, and b. the ball only went out of the end zone because Troy Polamalu punched the ball in an illegal play.

Without further ado, here’s the six keys to defeat:

Figured I’d start here. Do we miss Leigh Bodden yet? A lot of Patriots beat writers/bloggers/TV personalities, etc. have been saying that Bodden was playing poorly, he looked slow, he looked old, blah, blah blah… Where were those comments during the first six weeks of the season when the secondary was struggling? I heard a lot of criticism of the safeties, of McCourty, about missing Dowling, but nothing about Bodden playing poorly. It’s easy to look smart in retrospect. Bodden wasn’t playing to his 2009 level, but he was still getting the job done and he was still a lot better than Antwan Molden. It’s pretty clear that Leigh Bodden was cut not for performance, but for personality. I respect Belichick wanting to make this a team and to not have any Adalius Thomas type distractions, but you still need talent on the roster and Bodden was a talent.

According to Pro Football Focus, Kyle Arrington had the best day in pass coverage with six targets and three receptions for 23 yards. Devin McCourty played decently as well allowing 48 yards on six targets and five receptions. Gary Guyton was targeted a game high eight times for four recptions, 52 yards and one interception. Antwaun Molden played the worst, targeted five times for four receptions, 38 yards and two touchdowns. I’m hoping Phillip Adams gets the nod as the sub package DB next week. Molden played 42 snaps before getting benched for Adams (19 snaps).

The Patriots weren’t expecting it and they looked lost because of it. Welker couldn’t get open and Deion Branch never responds well to being jammed at the line. The only receiver left open was Rob Gronkowski, who had a nice game. It doesn’t help the passing game when your defense can’t get off the field either.

Ochocinco only got eleven snaps compared to Taylor Price’s six. They were each only targeted once for long pass plays, neither completed.

I get that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is banged up and that Stevan Ridley is a rookie, and Danny Woodhead might still be ailing, but Kevin Faulk taking the majority of the RB snaps in his first game back? Yes, he’s our best pass blocker and yes, the Steelers have a strong pass rush, but Kevin Faulk lead the team in touches. What the heck? Green-Ellis works best when he can get 15-20 carries, so maybe he wasn’t an option if Faulk was going to get a heavy workload, but where was Stevan Ridley (0 snaps)?

The Patriots desperately needed to control the clock and they need that balanced offensive attack to be at full steam. Kevin Faulk is not going to get them there. I get that it was great to see Faulk back after a year out of football, but it also would have been great to see him get 10 snaps and three touches. The Patriots have far more dangerous running backs than Kevin Faulk to be throwing out against one of the best defenses in the league. New England used a second and third round pick this year so that they could start Kevin Faulk against one of the best opponents they’ll face in 2011?

Belichick got out coached. Maybe he has too much on his place as the GM, head coach and defensive coordinator, but there were opportunities to switch up his game plan and he didn’t. Belichick wasted a minute and a half off the clock by not challenging that Gronkowski TD. I know he said there were no replays in the booth and that it looked close on the field, but he had three time outs at the time. The Patriots needed to score and they needed to score quickly.

Where to start? The Steelers were only credited with three sacks and four QB hits, but Brady also had no time to throw all game. Sebastian Vollmer probably shouldn’t have been playing unless he had help from Nate Solder. Solder was playing like a rookie and Mankins’ penalties have got to stop. Vollmer looked very rusty while playing 38 snaps to Solder’s 24. Unless Vollmer can get back to 2010 form, I’d like to see more Solder this season.

This one had to kill Belichick the most. The Patriots kickoff coverage was lacking and Gostkowski missed an easy field goal and blew an onside kick. Another question is: where is Julian Edelman? With all the emphasis Belichick places on special teams, it sure would have been nice to have Edelman back returning kicks rather than Woodhead and punts rather than Welker. If Taylor Price and Chad Ochocinco both aren’t going to be used in the passing game, let Edelman play his special teams role.

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39 Responses to “Patriots vs Steelers: Keys to Defeat”

  1. French fans of Pats says:

    Excuse me for the language and I’m not very good in English.

    I agree with all your text I think you’re right on the Secondary, the halfbacks and the coaching.
    But I disagree with what you said on the pass protection, for me Brady was pretty well protected and Pittsburgh have one of the best pass rush in the league, I prefer Vollmer to Solder, who really struggled against Woodley ( I can understand that, he’s a rookie and Woodley is one of the best outside LB in the NFL ).

    Please correct me if you see spelling mistakes i want to improve myself.

    • TD says:

      That was better grammer and spelling than half the people here.

      If the OLine struggles to keep the NY Giant rushers out, chalk up another defeat. To throw Vollmer out there against Woodley last week was probably not a good idea after playing in only 1 game.

  2. Bill says:

    Often a termite infested house needs to be demolished rather than rebuilt.

    Fire BB. Fire the entire scouting staff. Trade/ release everyone other than Mayo, Ridley, Mankins, Gronk, H/man, Welker, Wilfork and the kicker.

    • DWE says:

      Ouch, But I agree with about 1/2 of it anyway. I’ve been hating on the way thing’s have been getting done for some time(a good three to 5 years worth), wishin’ & hopin’ that someone in the Pats Org would pull their head’s out of their tail-sides and stop the draft non-scence that’s been going on, all the “Value” crap picking, and again start putting talent in possition’s rather than “Hoping” that “misclanious guy #4,5,6,7,8 & 9” will all be diamond’s in the rough.
      It’s great 2 have Oh So many picks, but when all your doing is shifting pick’s around and utilizing them on no-scence……?
      Constent stupid trades, constent stupid releases, and all at constent stupid timeframes……but 8 guy’s of the whole 53 man roster nevermind the coaching, the scouting & every practice player around and then some!

      As I said, that’s a bit much I think.

      *Bill Belichick need’s help-PERIOD.
      He cannot do it alone, and the results show that. In short, the nucleuos of the team is and has been gone, and although i appreciate the consistence of staying on top and staying relivent, some serious changes have to be made, and it starts with Bill Belichick simply admitting that ( either openly or behind closed door’s ), he need’s help. He cannot be the The Head Coach, the Defensive Coordinator, the Offensive Coordinator, The Lead scout, and more all at once.

      & his “Value Only Mentality” has to GO!

      If you do not have and incert a cpl of Clay Mathiews type’s into your line-up and do nothing but pass on all of them everytime, then anything down the line of “Value” or having “Misclanious Guy” from the CFL or from the nobody lot down the street will never work out…..ever. It’s also why you’ll never get any decent veteran help either. Do yout think Rodney Harrison, Teddy Washington, Corry Dillon, Juniour Seau, and the Randy Moss(s) just to name a cpl would have ever “WANTED” to play for N.E.?
      If the current and continuing mentality team was in play back then…………anyone with 1/2 a brain agree’s with NO, no they would not. Instead you get Albert Worthlessness, Chad “4.5 mill up front and laughing at us” OchoWhata’waste-O, Left over’s from your rival team who were not wanted or needed becuase they in short are old and or just plane SUCK, & a bunch of nobodies inbetween…………………………..

      and I’m personally sick of hearing about how he’s “Doing it on the fly”???? What does that mean? Isn’t that his regular job? The doing of….it. Is that why he’s not in the possition he is in? The lame excuse of “doing it on the fly” is just that, an excuse not a reason.
      No star player was all of the sudden injured, no key cog in the wheel was hopsitalized or at the last minute said No to the new contract when we all thought he was coming back( in fact most get screwed even when they earned it…Ala’ Randy Moss).
      BB get’s paid to keep this team together and work it on the field for a championship day in and day out. If “HE” meaning Bill Belichick cannot do it(which he has not been when and where it count’s), then he need’s to admit it, then Robert Kraft need’s to make him see it, and both simply need to hire whomever is available that is the best “Scouting Authority” around as well as a “Personel Assistant”.

      The Defense has been “RE-TOOLED” how many times now? Over how long? Non-stop?
      and He’s a “Defensive Guy”…..?

      Robert Kraft need’s 2 hire BB an actual Defensive Coordinator and as well a Scouting Assistant in addition to taking 1/2 the drafting reignes away from BB all together and simply just let him coach and have some fun with it again.

      He has way 2 many titles and way 2 much on his plate(which includes the dinner plate IMO as well…the guy need’s to get into shape himself, loose a few pound’s and return that mentality onto the player’s at the same time).

      BB has way too many hat’s and until he takes a couple of them off he’s gonna continue to have an “Alzeimer’s” attachment to him that many else around see, except for those with rose colored glasses on!

  3. psw says:

    Over the past 3-5 years the Patriots have conducted a rebuilding on the fly. The fact that they continue to produce 10+ win, playoff seasons has hidden this fact pretty well. But honestly now, how many players from 5 years ago, besides Brady, are still here. The transition which usually drives teams to 4-12 status has been done very well, leaving us a little (a lot) spoiled. Yes we have seen a lot of draft failures but also some successes, I think our average is roughly the same as the rest of the league, but we come out ahead on volume.
    Next draft we will have 2 first and 2 second. Add in the posibility of dealing either Hoyer or Mallet for possibly a 3rd(Hoyer) or 1st(Mallet) and the potential payoff for the next draft is huge. Don’t think about dealing Marcus Cannon, he is the starting RG next year.
    I mentioned a few months ago that next years line not this years would be great: Solder, Mankins, Koppen, Cannon, Volmer. With BJGE and Riddly running behind and Brady well protected throwing to Gronk, Hernandez, Welker the offense will be sweet.
    Which will allow all six picks in the first 3 rounds to be spent on defense. And with the draft being a 50-50 crapshoot that should produce 3 reliable starters.Combine them with big Vince, Mayo, McCourty and Chung, and the defense gets alot better real fast.
    Don’t forget there are a few guys of IR with potential, if we get one or two back next year healthy and ready, thats a bonus.
    And stop hating on McCourty, he over performed last year and maybe some of it got to his head, but expecting him to improve on a level of play he shouldn’t have been capable of is unfair. Let him get his head on strait and play like he should be, we should be hoping he’s our starter for 8-10 years.

    • TD says:

      You seem to be giving Cannon a lot love, the guy was an OT in college and has not played a down in the NFL. Meanwhile Waters is doing better than Mankins this year and has at least 1 more year left I believe. Solder needs some more experience after that Pitt game.

      If BB keeps with the 4-3 going forward it will mean a lot more prospects at the OLB spot/pass rusher than with the 3-4.

      • Ryan says:

        We need Waters, Mankins, Cannon, Light, Vollemer, Solder Koppen Conolly and McDonald next year. Need to keep them all around so we can have a rotation if necessary, and backups for injuries.

      • Doug Kyed says:

        Vollmer was a lot worse than Solder in the Pitt game. He’s a starter-worthy player.

    • qwerty says:

      trading Mallet – the likely heir to Tom Brady – Are you kidding!!!

    • Lundahl says:

      No way Pats are trading Mallet. This guy is Tom’s legacy. He’s our future franchise quarterback.

      • Doug Kyed says:

        If the Pats can trade Mallett for someone (draft picks) that can help them win now with Brady and Belichick, they will. Who knows when Brady’s going to decline, it’s not worth carrying Mallett past his rookie contract if he’s not going to contribute for 3-5 years down the line.

        • Lundahl says:

          what about Steve Young ? The guy never touched a football until age 30. I’m telling you, Mallet is staying here, we need him in five years.

        • td says:

          that was a time long ago; no cap & they could stash players away for ever. That particular scenario would be like Pat’s keeping Brady & Cassell.

  4. John Major says:

    The Patriots defense WILL give up at least 21 points a game. It’s up to their offense to score more in the playoffs. It won’t be easy because the best defensive teams will be their opponents.

  5. John Major says:

    I would just like to make a comment. The Patriots really made a “bonehead” move by releasing Leigh Bodden. They are going to pay him 2 million dollars the rest of the year for nothing! He is better than the back-ups and now they don’t have any depth at the position. The Patriots have 9 more games to get their act together. Hopefully getting Jerod Mayo back and picking up another CB ( for added depth) would possibly make NE’s defense average. Then they need to establish a running game against a good defensive team in the playoffs. They also have to get either Taylor Price or Ochozero into the offense as a deep threat which means better pass blocking and the receivers getting open. You can bet that New England will have to face Pittsburgh again if they make it that far. They will have to establish a running game against them or their defense will be on the field all day! Also, don’t count the Eagles out as a playoff team in the NFC.

  6. John says:

    they really have only 2 opponents they need to beat in order to win the AFC the jets and the steelers they can still win the AFC and once they get to the superbowl anything can happen (i.e the giants) and i have to think Bodden asked for his release because he wasnt palying alot

  7. Ryan says:

    Couldn’t agree more about Faulk:
    The more I think about why Faulk played so much, might have more to do with giving BJGE a rest. I would still like to see Ridley, even Vareen get in there to get a few snaps. We have quite the back field, hopefully we can get them into the game a little more.

  8. Tom says:

    The offense deserves as much blame as the defense in this loss. The defense at least prevented another Pitt field goal in the last two minutes to keep it a one possession game and forced field goals instead of giving up touchdowns. I have no idea why the Pats didn’t try running the ball more in this game after so much success the last few weeks, and not challenging that TD in the 4th was a really bad decision. The other thing that does not get mentioned is that Pitt had to listen to the media talk about how Brady ‘owned’ Pittsburgh all week. I am sure Tomlin just had to post those articles in the locker room to motivate his players. Last week reminded me of last year when the media talked about how the Fins always beat the Pats in Miami and how the Pats were going to get destroyed. All the media people picked Miami to win that game and we all remember how that turned out….

    • Lundahl says:

      Pats shot themselves in the foot. I know that. Because last year, they had way fewer weapons, a bunch of young unexperienced rookies and mid-season recruits and dominated the AFC. They have a way stronger team this year, that’s why I know this loss is more of a matter of gampelan and poor tackling (unbelievable they can’t tackle, if they do they might take the offense off the field). Listen, last year media fascists talked abut “yeah but they didn’t exactly dominate the Jets ’cause they lost the first game and then Rob Ryan out coached them”. If they had won those two games, Patriots would have been 16-0. What ! So what, they lose some games, are you actually expecting a 16-0 season ? No way. Yeah they lose some but we’re gonna win a bunch also. And the Eagles are all talk believe me, Vick is a punk. Pats need to go back to no-huddle offense, play the last drive vs the Cowboys as their first drive.

  9. TD says:

    Is it legal to almost decapitate someone such as Palomalou’s head tackle on Welker? I thought that was illegal and players received fines.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      For some reason Polamalu is lauded no matter what he does, including punching a ball backwards when it’s illegal.

  10. Lundahl says:

    I’m not worried. I’m disappointed Pats didn’t play Pats football: no no-huddle offense, wishy washy offense, not enough “pumpin’”, Welker misused. So, it’s really more a consequence of gameplan choices, bad calls, ran the ball when they could of simply thrown it. Polamalu is really the only real threat tey have a on the DB depth. Sure, they have a damn good LB core, but then spread the D, the blitzes will be flagrant to recognize. Yeah, the secondary looks dead, but Bodden (not that I admire) left, Dowling is on IR, so BB is completely restructurating the secondary this year. Plus Sanders was cut. In the end, Steelers had a good offense, but didn’t exactly routed us. We did have some chances but the O screwed up. So, it’s a loss, and I living in Sweden bugs me ’cause I have to stay up late to watch those games, but it’s not dramatic. The mistakes are correctable, not like the Jets who don’t have a quarterback.

  11. Lundahl says:

    What’s amazing is that the game wasn’t said and done until the last minutes. Patriots actually had a chance to win the ball game, even as bad as it was all game long.

  12. qwerty says:

    Whatever problems the offense had, I have high confidence in them for playoffs. Patriots do not need deep threat. They are fine.

    Defense is too weak to compete in playoffs. The DL is fine. The main problems lie in the secondary and somewhat in the LB position.

    LB pass defense is partly on the coaches game plan. Maybe Fletcher can help.

    The secondary talent as a whole has generally a low ceiling so won’t be able to rise up enough in the playoffs. Maybe bring in Sharper. I don’t see any CB’s available.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      I disagree on the secondary having a low ceiling, McCourty and Chung were playing much better last season, Sergio Brown is still young and Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams are both young and talented.

      I can see that Arrington and Ihedigbo have low ceilings, but they’re actually playing well right now.

      If any of Molden, Adams or Brown can start playing at a higher level, and if McCourty and Chung go back to playing as well as they can this secondary can be pretty decent. That sounds like a lot of “ifs,” but we know McCourty and Chung can do it, so it’s really just a matter of one of Molden, Adams, Brown or Josh Barrett.

      • qwerty says:

        You do know this is Moldens 4th year and he’s 26 years old

        • Doug Kyed says:

          Yes I am aware of this. He’s had a lot of injuries during his career that have held him back.

      • Lundahl says:

        Molden, Adams, Brown, are really the guys that are killing us. Unfortunately BB made so many cuts in such a small lapse of time, the whole secondary has to restructure during regular season. BB made it tough on the secondary. Cutting Sanders is a mistake, because he’s worth the money he’s paid, not like Ellis where instead they could of picked up Ray Edwards. Then Bodden, well bad cut too. And might as keep Meriweather if it’s to start Brown.

  13. TD says:

    One big key was the major lack of execution by the OLine. What, 4 false starts? The turnstile for Pitt rushers at RT. Those and the little time the Offense had the ball meant poor offensive production and more time on the field for that defense.

  14. Joshua says:

    Every team facing the Patriots that has the right personnel (the good teams) should and probably will employ the strategy used by the Jets in the playoffs. Pittsburg essentially did the same thing in this game. They know that the Patriots don’t have a real threat to get deep in the 2TE 2WR 1RB sets they are in predominantly. Branch, as reliable as he is, will never be a real threat outside the numbers and downfield like Wallace, Jennings, Dez Bryant, etc. If you want to use this as your base set, replace Branch with Price (or Ocho) to put some size and/or speed on the field with Welker, then bring Branch on for 3+WR sets. At least it’d be a more dynamic presence for the defenders to account for, maybe forcing a safety to play a bit deeper and opening the middle a bit.

    Defense is pretty bad, probably too bad to go far this year, so I say play the young linemen a lot, all of them, Brace, Deaderick, Cunningham, Anderson, see what they can do with some speed and hustle. For all the talk of Haynesworth and Ocho, what the hell has Shaun Ellis done for his $5MM this year? I think that the rib injury was the first we’ve heard of him all year. Maybe look at a wily old veteran like Darren Sharper to help with the communication issues in the secondary. If we don’t make it far then at least the young guys learn, gain experience, and get better.

    Hopefully BB comes to his senses in the 2012 Draft and takes some chances on dynamic talents that play positions of need. For one draft, with all of our picks, couldn’t we just stay put and take 2-3 each of 1. Pass Rushers, 2. CB, 3. Safety, 4. WR? My votes for Rounds 1-2 (assuming we also get a 2. for Hoyer) are as follows: 1a. Chase Minnifield, 1.b. Mark Barron, 2.a. Vinny Curry, 2b. Dwight Jones, 2.c. Mohamed Sanu.

    • Lundahl says:

      Ocho is a great player, he’s just misued. Give the guy a slant or a short out route, he’ll make the catch, but putting him in the weird complex formations is useless. Plus the guy is targeted what, one time per game ?

      • Big Dan From Maine says:


        Take off the Ocho colored glasses. The pats have targeted him on slants etc, and he cant get open. The pats brought in Randy Moss and he got alot of ball right away. He was smart enough to understand the offense, and still had some talent. Ocho Stinko has neither.

    • Lundahl says:

      Because you think the Jets defense is better ? Really ? Matt Chorizo, Sione Pooha, Ropati whateve rhis name is ? You’d rather have those guys instead of our defensive linemen ? And just because Bat Scott shouts and screams doesn’t make him a good player. Calvin Pace ? First round bust so called pass rusher ? No. This defense, is, well, could be better with Sanders and Bodden and Ray Edwards on our team, but that D is good, the gameplan sucks. Packers’ D is ranked 29th in pass defense and 25th overall defense. So, there is no real good defense in the league. Yes, Steelers and Ravens have good Ds but Flaco is unproductive and Big Ben is not Manning.

    • DWE says:

      Nice Take. Except for one thing, Darren Sharper told us NO WAY when asked previously.

  15. Josh says:

    I agree with a lot of these points, but it still has stuck with me that as bad as this game looked we were (somehow) still in it until the end. I think that’s maybe what Belichick is thinking this week, as his Red Zone defense looked pretty strong and holding opponents to field goals can help even the most porous defense hang around. The offense never got in a rhythm though and their inability to control the ball for any time was embarassing. The Bodden move clearly was a pretty dumb move talent-wise. Imagine if Arrington or McCourty get hurt even for one week. Molden or Adams on the field every snap? Good luck with that.

    In the end its just one game, they can learn from it, and if it weren’t for the dumb false starts they took all game the offense maybe still could’ve got something going. One (small) question I have to ask is why have the Patriots played in Pittsburgh 5 times since 2003 while Pittsburgh has come to us once? Two marquee teams should get equal chances at home and at a tough opponent.

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