Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How would the Patriots be able to stop the best power run game in the NFL as well as the NFL's hottest new celebrity player? How would they score on the best defense in the NFL. This is how:

With their "terrible towels" waving, Pittsburgh got the ball with an awkward kick from Vinaterri that resulted in only a 1 yard return and nearly gave the Patriots coverage team a chance to take the ball. The Pats would get the pigskin soon enough though. Bettis' first rush was a good one for 4 yards. Roethlesberger then ran it for 3. On 3rd and 3, Big Ben was forced to pass. It was a terrible one. Asante Samuel tipped it but couldn't catch it. However, Eugene Wilson hustled over and dove to grab it. The tone for the game was set a mere 1:19 into it.

Before the game started, I figured the Pats would run some misdirection plays ranging from Draws to Reverses. The first play on offense, Branch got a handoff on an end around for 14 yards, taking advantage of the very aggressive Blitzburgh defense. From the Pitt 34, Dillon ran for 1 yard and then 3. An incomplete pass forced a field goal attempt from the 30. No visiting kicker has ever kicked a FG longer than 46 yards in Heinz Field's history. Vinaterri, however, nailed his 48 yarder to put the Pats in the lead. They would stay there for the remaining 56:44 of the game.

The Steelers got the ball back on their 31 yard line and gave the Patriots a heavy dose of Bettis. The Pats replied with a heavy dose of gang tackling. Bettis ran up the middle for 5. Then he was stopped at the line by Ty Warren. (Its very nice having several former DTs at DE in games like this) On 3rd and 5, Ben hit Burress for 16 yards to the NE 48. Bettis went up the middle for 3 and then for 3. Each time he was stopped, Tedy Bruschi was getting into his face. Haynes got the ball on 3rd down and nearly got the 1st. On 4th and 1 Bettis not only got stuffed, he got stripped by Roosevelt Colvin. Mike Vrabel then recovered it.

Last week the Patriots got praised for their ability to grind out the clock in painstakingly lengthy and run heavy drives. This strategy probably wouldn't work against Pittsburgh's tough run defense. So what is a team to do? How about throw the ball 60 yards to Deion Branch for a touchdown? Good strategy and great execution.

The Steelers responded with a 3 and out drive that saw Troy Brown and Hank Poteat making 1st down saving tackles. The Pats didn't come out as explosive as they were on their previous drive. Some incompletions and a false start penalty forced them to punt and give the Steelers the ball back in New England territory.

On 1st down, Roethlesberger hit Ward for 19 yards. The drive then sputtered and stalled. Staely got a 4 yard gain but then got stuffed by Samuel. Ben then threw an incomplete pass that Samuel could have picked. Pittsburgh settled for a field goal making the score 10-3.

The Pats ended the 1st quarter with a couple of Dillon runs for 2 yards a piece. Brady then hit Patten for 8 and a 1st down. Dillon rushed for a solid 5 yards but then lost 2 the enxt play. An incomplete pass forced the Patriots to punt. This time though, the Steelers field position was not as great as it was on their scoring drive.

The Steelers tried running the ball down New England's throat with 4 straight Staley runs. For 5, then 6, then 0, then -2. Roethlesberger's incomplete forced Pittsburgh to punt.

Brady started the drive with a pass to Fauria for 9 yards to the 39. Dillon got the 1st with a 2 yard run to the left. Brady hit Branch for 45 yards into the red zone at the PIT 14. Dillon caught a 5 yard screen pass to get to the 9. Brady audibled the next play from a run to a short pass to Givens. The Cornerback fell down as the ball was thrown and Givens waltzed into the end zone to give the Pats a 14 point lead after the extra point.

With 7 minutes left in the half, the Steelers needed a scoring drive and it looked like they might get it. Staley got 4 to begin the series. Ben then hit Tuman for 8 then Ward for 28. Staley got the ball to the NE 35 with a 2 yard run. He then ran to the right for 3 more. Roethlesberger got 9 on a QB Draw. Staley got into the red zone with a 4 yard run to the 19. Then Roethlesberger choked and threw a ball right at Rodney Harrison who caught it at the 13 and ran back 87 yards for a touchdown. It was 24-3. The Steelers, who had ended the Pats winning streak, were being dominated.

With only 2:06 left, the Steelers attempted to mount a scoring drive but failed to get the ball out of their half of the field. They were forced to punt with 0:40 left. Dillon got the ball twice to end the half with the Pats leading 24-3.

The Pats looked a little flat to start the 2nd half. Dillon lost a yard on the first play, then Brady got sacked. On 3rd and long Brady threw a questionable incompletion to Patten that was originally ruled a catch but was overturned. The Pats were forced to punt. The Steelers then marched 56 yards downfield and into the end zone. The game wasn't completely locked up by any stretch of the imagination.

NFL.com's play by play thingy ends there so I'll end there. Roethlesberger showed that he is a rookie QB and Brady showed that he is the man.

The Man of the Game is Deion Branch who caught 4 balls for 116 yards and a TD and also ran twice for 37 yards and a TD.

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