New England Patriots VS Pittsburgh Steelers Game Recap

You have to hand mad props to Pittsburgh.  Some people are surprised by the outcome of Sunday’s game.  I really was not that shocked by the turn of events yesterday because I had the Steelers winning 28 to 27.

Pittsburgh dominated in the first quarter practically keeping the Patriots on the field for  only 3 plays the entire first quarter.  Everyone is blaming Brady for the Patriots loss when the grim reality is everyone on this roster is accountable for New England’s loss.

Brady went 24 for 35 with 198 passing yards 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Despite making no mistakes with interceptions Brady was held to under 200 passing yards which is sort of subpar by Brady standards.

I keep emphasizing how offensive tackles and pass protection is priority #1 after quarterback play.  About a month ago the Steelers offensive line had no identity now that they brought in Starks things changed.

Matt Light is slowly declining at left tackle in 2011.  Vulmer was horrible today allowing Woodley to get by him on multiple occasions in his first game after this injury.  Logan Mankins did not perform today.  Center Dan Koppen is injured.  Right guard Brian Waters is in his 40′s with rookie Marcus Cannon attempting his recovery while rookie right tackle Nate Soldier needs this season and another year to fully develop.

This whole offensive line has been dominant for years.  While you have to give credit to the Steelers front 7 for playing this well despite their injuries its time to ask yourself if the Patriots offensive line that has been so dominant protecting Brady over the years is beginning to crumble.

The Patriots had a dominant pass rush when they had a Super Bowl dynasty going.  Sure, Steeler fans can say Belicheck’s Super Bowl dynasty is more tainted than a purple Krabby Patty due to Spygate.  This still doesn’t mean our team didn’t fight to the end to claim the Lombardi Trophy.  That’s not the main point.

The main point is that this defensive line had Seymour, Warren, Wilfork, McGinnest, Bruschi, Vbrael, along with Crennell.  Our team has tried to bring in replacements on defense over the past few seasons by trading out of the first round.

Wilfork is the only defensive player remaining of that defensive bunch from the Patriots Super Bowl era.

Besides 2008 first round pick Jerod Mayo who we took 10th overall in 2008 no one has performed up to a pro bowl level.  We’ve had productive players who contribute on Sunday’s, but we still have yet to find long term solutions to the players that were lost after Belicheck’s Super Bowl era.

What if the same incident occurs with the offensive line down the road?  The New England Patriots will solely rely on Belicheck’s coaching or Tom Brady’s quarterback play until either party is no longer a part of New England.

Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks prepared hard and limited Welker.  The Steelers were 10 for 16 on 3rd down conversions while New England was only 3 for 10.

Despite getting nearly everyone back from injuries our secondary is still depleted.  Bodden got released.  Ras I Dowling is on IR.  Chung is a hard hitting blitzer rather than a coverage safety.  We need a starter across from Chung.  Plus McCourty may be a boundary #2 corner playing in at #1 field cornerback role right now.  McCourty did well today though because he limited Mike Wallace to 7 receptions for 70 receiving yards while keeping Wallace out of the end zone.

If you keep Wallace to under 10 receptions, 100 receiving yards, or 1 receiving touchdown then you are doing your job as a cornerback.  Besides Roethlisberger’s interception Pittsburgh nearly played flawless on Sunday.  New England’s defense in the red zone allowed them to hang in this contest.

A majority of NFL fans are jumping on the Black and Gold Bandwagon after Sunday’s performance.  I don’t like going with the norm and I cannot see the Steelers beating the Patriots and Ravens in back to back weeks during the regular season.

In Baltimore’s week 1 matchup with Pittsburgh the Ravens won using Ray Rice, Boldin, and Lee Evans while the Steelers offense committed constant turnovers.

Draft picks who the Steelers defense is unfamiliar with like Torrey Smith who could the Ravens version of Mike Wallace, tight end Ed Dickson, and tight end Dennis Pitta have emerged.  Pittsburgh will forget to take one of these 3 players into account because none of these players has had a breakout game against the Steelers plus the odds indicate one of these players is due for a monster game.

While I am nervous about the Patriots season moving forward this defeat may be the wake up call reality check New England needs moving forward.  With a win over Baltimore next Sunday the following scenario could play out.  Pittsburgh gets home field along with Buffalo getting a first round bye.

New England gets a wild card with the odds stacked against them with doubters writing them off given the Patriots recent postseason track record.  The Patriots would open up the wild card against Houston or San Diego.  Then they would play Buffalo or Pittsburgh on the road in a playoff rematch.  I don’t see Tom Brady losing in Heinz Field or Ralph Wilson Stadium twice so I could see the Patriots go on a playoff run as a wild card getting to the Super Bowl.

There really is no complete AFC team this year.  Quarterback, offensive tackles, pass rushing, cornerbacks, and wide receivers are the most important positions in the NFL that order.  If defense and running the football wins Championships Pittsburgh would have won in Dallas last season.  Lets look at the Standings now to determine the Patriots potential playoff fate coming off this tough road loss.

Pittsburgh didn’t have a left tackle last year which is why I doubted them.  Green Bay won and I turned out to be right about teams needing to build their team completely around using the passing game and stopping the opposing passing game before addressing the run defense and running game.

The Steelers offensive line has returned to full strength with Starks at left tackle Ben playing his best football in recent memory.  With the offensive line performing so well it will make the defenses job easier with so many injuries on the front 7.

The defensive front 7 looks cripple to a certain degree.  Hampton was in his first game back Sunday. Aaron Smith is on IR. Harrison is out for a while and he probably will not return to full form until next season.  Who knows how long Woodley could be out? Farrior is out.  Timmons moved from the inside to the outside which I question.

The Steelers pass defense is much better this year at cornerback this season even though I still believe cornerback could become one of Pittsburgh’s biggest liabilities down the road if they go up against a quarterback with Brady’s talent in the postseason.  The fact that Pittsburgh defeated Brady in the regular season will only fire up Brady for revenge come postseason time if the two teams meet.

If Starks is healthy at left tackle along with a healthy Farrior and Harrison then this could be the complete team in the AFC in 2011 due to their defense.  I still like New England because that is a lot to ask plus a Super Bowl loser has yet to reach the Super Bowl since the Bills teams in the early 90′s.

Houston is a dangerous upstart team.  They can match the Patriots offensively once Andre Johnson returns.  The Houston Texans have a very balanced offensive line plus Arian Foster is one of the premier fantasy backs.  The Texans have an easy division to play in which could result in a wild card or a first round bye.

Despite this I feel like the Texans will not reach an AFC Title unless Mario Williams returns by signing a contract extension with the Texans after this season.  Sure the Texans pass defense has made rapid improvements.  Their pass rush has lost its luster without Williams and that affects the Texans secondary.  The Texans are ready to take the next step, but their a year away from a Super Bowl run.

San Diego has the offensive pieces if their offensive roster stays healthy, Rivers doesn’t choke in the 4th, and Norv doesn’t call a stupid play.  That’s a lot to ask right?  The San Diego Chargers tackles and guards are banged up with injuries right now plus this team needs a sack artist pass rusher.

Buffalo’s blocking has improved the team in 2011.  Fitzpatrick is not an elite quarterback in my eyes yet despite his amazing 2011 campaign.

Buffalo’s front office believes Fitz is an elite quarterback because he got an extension.  Joe Flacco’s deal expires in 2013 and the Ravens have not backed down in refusing to pay Flacco what he wants.  Fitzpatrick has made huge strides in 2011 he did something prestigious by defeating New England after the Bills trailed 21 to 0.  Flacco got the Ravens to 3 straight playoff appearances in 3 straight years and Ozzie Newsome is playing hardball with Flacco’s agent because Flacco hasn’t delivered a Championship to Baltimore.  I believe that’s the direction Buffalo should have took with Fitzpatrick already 28 years old doing nothing historic until this season.

The Bills front office is only paying him because it took 16 tries to find a quarterback who could lead Buffalo to a comeback signature victory in week 3 against Buffalo’s rival the New England Patriots.  If Fitzpatrick reverts to his 2010 form this will be an Albert Haynseworth situation in Buffalo.

New England had chances to put Buffalo away.  The Patriots failed to capitalize in this area with Brady’s turnovers and it allowed Buffalo to hang in the game before Fitzpatrick rallied the team back.  Buffalo clearly deserved the win.  It still does not change my perception on that the Patriots lost the game by blowing critical chances to put away the game rather than the Bills winning by rallying back.  Buffalo earned the win, but Brady did throw those 4 picks which led to Buffalo scores the following drive.  You cannot ignore Brady’s 4 picks those were game changers folks.

Fred Jackson has 5 games of over 100 rushing yards in his first 7 games.  Jackson only had 4 games of 100 rushing yards all of last season.  The Bills were 3-1 in those games in 2010.  The Bills are 4-1 when Jackson exceeds 100 rushing yards in 2011.

The Buffalo Bills lack the pass rushers to get to New England without Merriman.  I cannot see them beating the New England Patriots.

The Ravens have the talent to be a complete team who could rival New England if Joe Flacco were a little more consistent.  They have the offensive tackles, the pass rusher in Suggs, the secondary, the under the radar receivers, Ngata, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Ray Rice.

Its year 4 and Flacco has yet to peak or maintain consistency as a borderline pro bowl quarterback.  The Ravens could be the team in the AFC if Flacco simply played mistake free football.  When its year 4 and your 1st round draft pick at quarterback has yet to peak in the postseason you have to wonder if he ever will peak?  Baltimore has a guy who can get them to the postseason.  Can Flacco carry the Ravens the distance when veterans like Lewis and Reed are gone?  That’s the big question in Baltimore.

The Jets had the talent to make a strong run the first two seasons with an outstanding offensive line protecting Sanchez.  Right tackle is an issue with this team in addition to pass rushing.  The Jets offensive line relies on 2006 draft picks Debrickishaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.  Right tackle and guard depth could be added to the Jets. The Jets are not in the same conversation as the Patriots with Burress at wide receiver.  Burress is not a long term player next to Holmes.  Releasing Braylon Edwards was a mistake on the Jets part.

A lot of teams have their good share of flaws.  Its hard to find a complete team in this league because every team will have one or two weaknesses that could be improved upon.  Last year you had the Packers, the year before that you had the Colts/Saints, in Super Bowl 43 you had the Steelers.  The Giants had a qb, lt, pass rusher, corner to contain Moss, and Burress at wide receiver when they won Super Bowl 42 when it came to keeping New England from going 19-0.  The Colts were hungry when they won Super Bowl 41 same thing can be said about Pittsburgh having that complete roster when they won Super Bowl 40.

If the Steelers, Texans, Chargers, Bills, Ravens, or Jets do not keep New England from booking a Super Bowl trip to Indianapolis, then I do not see an NFL team who can keep New England from winning a trip to Indianapolis for Super Bowl 46.

The reason I state this is because with Manning’s injury Brady is the only sure fire future hall of fame quarterback in the AFC thanks to Manning’s absence off the field this season.  Ben is a pro bowl quarterback on the brink of cementing his status for Canton.  There is a fine line between Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.  Brady is a legend who has a future in Canton.  Ben is on the cusp of reaching Brady’s level, but he needs a signature win on Super Bowl Sunday before he even gets inserted into the conversation with Brady as one of the leagues best.

Ben’s performed poorly in the Super Bowl statistically despite winning 2 championships with 3 appearances.  One more trip to the big show could seal Ben’s hall of fame fate if Ben can display good numbers while leading Pittsburgh to a 3rd title

Brady is better than Ben at this point when stacking their careers on paper at this point.  Ben even admitted that Brady’s the best in the game after Pittsburgh’s win yesterday showing some class.

The fact that New England has the best quarterback in the AFC at the moment persuades me that New England has a slight edge among the other AFC teams if none of these teams have a complete starting roster when looking at every single key position on the depth chart.

New England has a brutal schedule, but their still the frontrunner to win the AFC even after Pittsburgh’s amazing victory in my mind because they have the best quarterback in the AFC.  There really is not a complete team in the AFC when it comes to passing, pass protection, pass rushing, pass defense, and receivers stretching the field.  I feel like Pittsburgh could become that team if the linebackers held up.  Still, I’m uncomfortable with giving a Super Bowl loser a chance due to the recent history of Super Bowl losers.  Maybe this years the exception due to the lockout.  Regardless I like New England to win the AFC when all is said and done.

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