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Going into this game, all the Steelers heard was how Tom Brady has owned their team during his tenure as quarterback of the New England Patriots and how their “old” defense, with its zone blitz schemes, was going to get picked apart by Brady and company.
The Steelers changed all that talk in a big way on Sunday as Ben Roethlisberger was the quarterback picking apart the Steelers, giving Brady and the Patriots offense fits all day.
Brady came into the game with a 6-1 record against the Steelers, and put up monster numbers in doing so. But on Sunday at Heinz Field, it was all Steelers, all game. The Steelers had 39 minutes of possession, and Brady was never able to get into rhythm because the Steelers changed their defense.
Instead of featuring zone blitz schemes, which have allowed Brady and the Patriots to spread out the defense and throw in between the zones, the Steelers switched up their strategy featuring more man-to-man play. The coverage and ample pressure from wide receivers on Brady allowed them to keep Brady under wraps, and set the blueprint to bring down Bill Belichick and Brady.
Brady was sacked three times during the game, but was under pressure all day. When he couldn’t find an open receiver, Wes Welker, who, like Brady, has numbers on a record pace this season, was held to six catches for only 39 yards.
“It’s been all Tom Brady versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, and looking back on the past, how he’s owned the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I think everybody forgot about our offense a little bit and the things they’ve been doing out there,” Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “I think they took that a little personal.”
Roethlisberger had one of his best games of the season, throwing 30 times in the first half and finishing 36 of 50 for 365 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick as the Steelers notched their fourth straight victory after starting 2-2. They move into a tie for first place in the AFC.
Brady was 24 of 35 for a season low 198 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots showed no signs of panicking, though the loss dropped them back into a tie for the AFC East with Buffalo and only one game ahead of the Jets. The Patriots punted four times during the game, missed a key field goal, and failed miserably on an onside kick attempt.
The team that was out there Sunday was very reminiscent of the Patriots teams that have shown up in the playoffs the past few years. “It just wasn’t a really good day for us in any phase of the game, in any area,” Belichick said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job. That’s really all there is to say.”
There is more to say than just that. This is a Patriots team whose defense is so bad that on any given day when the offense isn’t putting up huge numbers, there’s a really good possibility of them losing the game.
The problems with the defense are deeper than anyone in New England wants to let on, but the Steelers have shown the rest of the league that this isn’t the same untouchable Patriots team we’ve seen over the past decade.
The Patriots host the New York Giants next week. With their schedule not getting any easier and the emergence of Buffalo combined with the recent resurgence of the Jets, the Patriots have to get things turned around quickly if they hope to keep control of the AFC East.
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