By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
I don’t mind admitting it. I couldn’t come up with a realistic scenario in which the Patriots could beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. I really should know better.
Hasn’t 10 years of Bill Belichick taught us he doesn’t take bad losses lightly? That having Tom Brady as your quarterback means that when the games get big, you’re going to have a chance? Haven’t we learned that what happened last week almost never translates into this week? (Keep that in mind for this Sunday against the Colts.)
The Patriots came out last night and dominated the Steelers right from the opening drive. The final score was 39-26, but the game was not that close. The Patriots were up 23-3 after three quarters, and called off the dogs late in the game, going to a more conservative “prevent” style defense that made the game closer than it needed to be. Still, when the Steelers were attempting to close the gap, they still were unable to stop the New England offense when it counted.
Brady was brilliant last night, assisted ably by a dominant performance by his offensive line, which gave him all the time he needed to throw, and kept his jersey pretty much pristine the entire night. Rookie Rob Gronkowski came out from the shadows of fellow rookie TE Aaron Hernandez by catching three touchdown passes from Brady. BenJarvis Green-Ellis ran hard, and Wes Welker and Deion Branch were constantly open.
This wasn’t 2004? When Brady run the QB sneak into the end zone and spiked the ball furiously while staring into the Heinz Field stands, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Willie McGinest on the sidelines near the end of the 2001 AFC title game yelling “Cancel those reservations!” or Deion Branch in the 2004 game waving to a Steelers defender on his way into the end zone. It wasn’t a playoff game, but it felt like one.
Where do we begin with the defense? They were outstanding. They were everything they weren’t last week and last season. Watching a game like this gives you real hope heading into the final seven games of the season. How far can they go? What can they achieve? They were so impressive last night, getting pressure on Roethlisberger, and playing tight in coverage while also stuffing the run. They even got off the field on third down most of the game.
Even a number of head-scratching calls and non-calls by the officials could ruin this one. The Steelers got dirty, and it didn’t matter. On at least three separate occasions they took took cheap shots at Tom Brady – James Harrison dove at his knees (isn’t that supposed to be a penalty?) LaMarr Woodley shoved Brady hard in the back after he released the ball (which was called a penalty) and apparently Troy Polamalu attempted to twist Brady’s head off his shoulders at the bottom of the pile after Brady’s TD run – which caused Logan Mankins to freak out, and start tossing guys off of Brady after the play.
I’ve rarely been so happy to have been very wrong about something. I’ve learned my lesson.