The New England Patriots fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 25-17 Sunday night, finding themselves dominated offensively and defensively despite a relatively close final score.
The Steelers set the tone for the game from the very beginning, marching down the field in their opening drive by taking advantage of the Patriots' porous pass defense, particularly over the middle. Tight end Heath Miller was particularly productive, picking up 55 yards in the first drive to set up a short pass to Mewelde Moore for the touchdown.
Defensively the Steelers were just as dominant, holding the Pats to a 3-and-out. Those plays would be the only ones the Patriots would run in the first quarter, with the Steelers again driving into field goal range to set up three more points to start the second quarter.
The Patriots would get on the board thanks to a couple of terrible plays by Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who took a sack after holding onto the ball for over six seconds and then threw the ball directly at Gary Guyton for an interception. A few plays later, and Tom Brady found Deion Branch for a touchdown.
It did not take long for the Steelers to repsond. An 11 play drive with only one third down put the Steelers in the end zone once again. The Patriots did manage to threaten before the half ended, but a 7-yard sack left them lucky to get back into field goal range, where Gostkowski booted home a 46-yarder to bring the Pats within a score at the half despite being more than doubled up in total offense.
Unfortunately, halftime did not bring the necessary adjustments for the Patriots. Another 3-and-out to start the third quarter was met by a 74-yard push from the Steelers that only stalled on the 3-yard line, where a chip shot put the Steelers back up by 10.
Amazingly, despite being dominated all game, Tom Brady and the Patriots would have a chance for the miracle comeback. Completing 6-of-8 passes on the drive, Brady seemed to find Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown with four minutes left on the clock, but the referees incorrectly ruled the tight end down inches short. This would prove to cost the Patriots 90 seconds off the clock before they could finally get the ball into the end zone, leaving under three minutes in the game.
With the defense having proved incapable of keeping the Steelers out of the red zone on all but one drive, the Pats attempted an onside kick to try and pull off the miracle. But the kick was weak, went only seven yards, and came with an offside penalty to boot, leaving the Steelers in field goal territory and up six to boot. While Roethlisberger would take some potentially disastrous sacks, the Pats were down to 20 seconds with most of the field to go when they got the ball back. With Brady trying to buy time, the ball was knocked from his hand and punched out of the back of the end zone for a safety that sealed the game.