Do you know what's alarming? As ugly and painful to watch as the Pats' D was on Sunday, they were the best unit on the field for New England. They kept the Patriots in the game. They held the Steelers to 3 field goals and 2 TDs in the Red Zone. They intercepted Roethlisberger which set up an 8 yard TD drive. They were on the field for 2/3 of this game, and they played much better than the offense.
Give credit to the Steelers for doing two key things defensively: pressuring Brady (from unanticipated angles) and neutralizing Wes Welker. Brady was rarely comfortable and Welker was held to 6 catches for only 39 yards. When Welker did catch the ball, he was immediately (and forcefully) greeted by a Pittsburgh defender.
The Patriots shot themselves in the foot, too. Four false start penalties by the line (give partial credit to the Steelers' pass rushers), and they all came at key moments in drives. The Pats didn't take advantage of the penalties Pittsburgh committed, they didn't even try to run the ball, they didn't do much to stop Pittsburgh's pass rush like run some screens with Woodhead and/or Faulk. The Patriots offense was 3/10 on 3rd downs.
It was nice seeing Faulk in the backfield, he played well for being 80 years old. Gronkowski was stellar. He had more guys on him than Bibi Jones after a baseball game. And unlike Bibi Jones, he didn't go down easily. That's about it as far as good offensive performances go.
The defense did a decent job, but it was far from pretty. The blitzing was predictable. Blitzing worked for the Germans in 1940 because France didn't know where or when it was coming. The Patriots sent extra men in predictable situations, and sent them in predictable directions. And the Steelers ate them up for it.
If any team wants to move the ball against the Pats, all they have to do is run 6-10 yard curls. It's open. Every single down. Thankfully, the Pats clamped down in the Red Zone and turned possible touchdowns into field goals. If they hadn't, Pittsburgh would have won in a blowout.
Speaking of field goals. This was Gostkowski's worst game as a Patriot. One missed field goal, two botched onside kicks. He was one of many Patriots that simply didn't do their job.
Then there was the Patriots' clock management in the 4th. Instead of challenging the refs when Gronkowski appeared to catch the ball over the goal line, they wasted 1:37, taking their time to set plays up before finally scoring after several attempts.
The Pats are 2-2 on the road. Those 2 wins were in Miami and Oakland. Those 2 losses were in Buffalo and now Pittsburgh. The Patriots haven't beaten a good team on the road yet. And they play in the Meadowlands in 2 weeks. I'm more than a little concerned.
They host the Giants Sunday evening.