Report Card / Game 13 -- Steelers vs. Patriots
Patriots receiver Randy Moss hauls in pass as he's defended by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. (at Patriots 12/10/2007)
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grades the Steelers' effort in a 34-13 loss to the Patriots yesterday. The report is broken down into offensive and defensive positions, special teams and coaching.Quarterback: C+
Ben Roethlisberger did a good job executing the offense, especially the no-huddle, and made several big plays out of the pocket. But the offense didn't convert enough of its opportunities in the red zone -- not a good recipe against the high-scoring Patriots. Roethlisberger did not throw an interception and nicely eluded pressure to find Najeh Davenport on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Running backs: B+
Willie Parker had 68 of his 124 yards in the first half, including a 30-yarder to jump-start the first touchdown drive. He also caught four passes for 23 yards. Najeh Davenport made two big plays in the first half, especially when he broke off a route to make a nice 32-yard touchdown catch. He also converted a fourth-and-1, which led to a field goal.
Not enough big plays from the receivers, particularly Santonio Holmes, who had only one catch for 13 yards. The longest reception by a receiver was 21 yards by Nate Washington near the end of the third quarter. Cedrick Wilson made several key catches after Holmes left the game in the second quarter, including an 8-yard catch on fourth-and-1 to keep alive a field-goal drive.
Offensive line: B-
Overall, it wasn't a bad performance. The Steelers had their most rushing yards (187) since Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers and Roethlisberger was sacked only once into the fourth quarter, when the game was out of hand. The linemen nicely adjusted to protection changes when the Steelers ran their no-huddle offense. But they missed a good scoring chance when right tackle Willie Colon got pushed back into Hines Ward on a fourth-down handoff at the Patriots' 1.
Defensive line: C-
The Steelers did not have to worry about the run because the Patriots rushed only nine times for 22 yards. Still, QB Tom Brady was not sacked and was under very little pressure. About the only highlight was DE Brett Keisel deflecting a third-down pass from the Steelers' 24, forcing the Patriots to settle for a field goal.
The Steelers tried to pressure Brady with ILB James Farrior, who got close with a lot of inside blitzes. Nothing seemed to work, not even dropping backers into coverage to help stop the Patriots' underneath routes. Farrior helped on the first touchdown pass to Randy Moss, but couldn't make the play.
The only guarantee was that Brady repeatedly victimized safety Anthony Smith, sucking him in for two long touchdowns -- one with a play-fake, the other on a flea-flicker. CB Ike Taylor followed Randy Moss all over the field and gave up seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. But he was supposed to get inside help on the first TD and deep help when Smith bit on play-fake on a 63-yard TD.
Special teams: D
Jeff Reed was solid again, kicking field goals of 23 and 44 yards, but there were enough gaffes to make a difference. One was allowing a 39-yard kick return to set up the Patriots' first TD. The other was William Gay not knowing where the ball was and getting hit on a punt, allowing the Patriots to recover. Lawrence Timmons even had a block-in-the-back penalty that negated a nice return by Allen Rossum.
Mike Tomlin showed some guile on the road when he twice went for it on fourth down in the first half, converting both. The offense did a good job with time of possession (34:43), running the ball and not turning over the ball. But the league's No. 1 defense just couldn't stop Brady, who threw four TD passes, and had the first 300-yard passing game of the season against them.
First Published December 10, 2007 12:00 am