Tom Brady suffered his 2nd loss in eight career games against Pittsburgh today as the Patriots fell 25-17 to the Steelers at Heinz Field. The score doesn't do the atrocity of New England's performance nearly enough justice, as they played their worst all around performance of the season.
The first half featured 18 Pittsburgh first downs to New England's eight, and 261 total Steelers' yards to the Patriots' 83. They were truly beaten in every facet of the game, and the fact that the score was just 17-10 at the half seemed to be pure luck for the Pats, as Ben Roethlisberger methodically drove the field 69 yards and 11 plays in 5:52 on the very first possession of the game for a touchdown.
He never really looked rattled after that either, completing a career 23 of 32 pass attempts in that first half alone. Tom Brady on the other hand seemed off kilter and out of sync, unable to every really develop a rhythm only completing 8 passes for 76 yards. His only touchdown came on a possession off a Gary Guyton interception of Roethlisberger in the second quarter.
The rest of the game played in a similarly atrocious display by the visiting team, only it seemed that it was the offense and bad clock management that truly failed the team in the second half rather than the defense.
It was Steelers ball with 8:48 left in the game, and the defense forced them to try a field goal after a 2:45 possession. Shaun Suisham missed the field goal to give the Patriots the ball back with just over 6 minutes back and down by 13 points. In typical late game fashion, Brady completed five straight passes to get to Pittsburgh 15 yard line. After an incomplete pass to branch, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski in the end zone for what was most certainly a touch down. The referees ruled the catch just outside of the end zone. With precious time ticking away and three time outs, Brady did all he could to hurry up his team for another attempt at the goal line. The major mystery is why Belichick did not challenge the call on the field that the catch was short of the touchdown, with three timeouts left and with absolutely no time to spare.
Nearly 90 seconds later Brady connected with Aaron Hernandez to make the score 17-23. With 2:35 left, the Patriots inexplicably attempted an onside kick. New England has not successfully performed an onside kick since 1994. They not only gave the ball to the Steelers but allowed them an extra five yards on an illegal touching penalty. The defense held the Steelers, with Andre Carter tackling Isaac Redman for a loss of a yard, Kyle Love sacked Roethlisberger again for a loss of 11 yards, then Mark Anderson sacked him again or a loss of eight yards. It looked almost exactly like what the defensive line did to Tony Romo two weeks ago late in the game.
Only this time, their offense and their coach had wasted away too much time to come back from. The game ended with a Tom Brady fumbled that was recovered by the Steelers in the end zone for a safety.
Check back tomorrow for my full analysis of the game, including who gets the blame and who gets a pass. Plus, looking ahead to next weeks' game against the New York Giants.