The New England Patriots won a very winnable game edging the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-14 though it was frankly too close for comfort, due to a few key factors.
After starting well in the first quarter after setting for a field goal the Patriots still left the first quarter with that 3-0 lead.
Yet, with quarterback, Mac Jones (who some think has been seriously hampered by the offensive coaching situation) and the surprising Patriots defense leading the way, things improved in the second quarter and thereafter.
Aided by a big special team’s play, they had just enough to edge past the Steelers, who used a quick-play offense to close the gap on the Patriots at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
New England Patriots keys to beating the Steelers
On offense, on the plus side, the running game was the key to shutting the door on the Steelers late in the games led by Rhamondre Stevenson. The second-year battering ram is emerging as a bonafide star.
Patriot Nation is still waiting for that monstrous proverbial second-year leap that Belichick speaks about from their Pro-Bowl quarterback Jones. He started slowly but picked up the pace late in the first and in the second half but he’s still making too many bad decisions and missing too many make-able throws.
New England is also still deploying a vanilla offense with no deception, little play-action, taking ill-timed penalties, and lacks big playmakers on offense. They did get one on a jump ball TD catch by an unlikely source, Nelson Agholor on a contested long-ball by Jones.
Other than that instance, no one is making big plays on offense for New England. But it would be a travesty not to say that Jakobi Meyers continues to be the Patriots best wide receiver by far.
Conversely, the Patriots tight ends were invisible men with zero catches. Where are they? Nowhere making plays, that’s for certain. Confoundingly, Kendrick Bourne, the wide receiver who is most likely to make a big play has been mired in Belichick’s doghouse on the bench. Go figure.
New England Patriots defense the key to beating Pittsburgh
The defense played well against the Steelers holding them to 14 points. Have to confess, this space thought it would be the offense leading the way for the 2022 New England Patriots but thus far, the defense has been the leading unit. They’ve been good.
Matt Judon continues his almost sack-a-game Patriots career. He had one against Pittsburgh as well as a huge pass breakup. Yet, coach Bill Belichick continues to misuse his best defensive lineman, Christian Barmore.
Barmore is most effective on the nose and has future Pro Bowl or better potential at that position. He may not be a prototypical nose tackle build-wise, but whenever he’s inserted on the nose, he collapses the pocket and good things happen.
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It’s not enough to have a good player. If you don’t deploy them correctly you negate their potential influence. Put Barmore on the nose, Bill…please.
Interestingly, a big special teams plays, a gaffe by former Patriot, Gunner Olszewski who fumbled, and a recovery by new special teams ace, Brendan Schooler leading to seven points made a huge difference in the tilt.
Yet, despite the shortcomings, the Patriots with their surprisingly competitive defense leading the way had enough to outlast the Steelers, a solid and very well-coached football team. A win is a win even if it ain’t perfect.
The New England Patriots still have 15 games to do some damage, but it usually comes down to the teams with the best players and on that score, New England is still deficient. Yet, at 1-1, they have righted the ship this week with a big road win.
Which Patriot team will sail into the game next week against the always-tough Baltimore Ravens in the team’s first home game? We’ll see. But a win is win, and this was a big one.