PITTSBURGH — Everything you need to know from the Patriots’ 17-10 loss to the Steelers in quickie form, with BSJ insight and analysis (turning point, second guess, three up/down, two takes we'll regret later:
Offense fails to deliver: The Patriots' defense didn't have the greatest performance in terms of total yards (376) or rushing yards (158), but they held the vaunted Steelers offense to just 17 points — certainly a winnable game, provided the offense does its part. Well, it didn't. The Patriots put up just 10 points, were 3 of 10 on third downs and Tom Brady threw an atrocious red-zone interception while in position for a game-tying field goal. The defense did its job; the offense (0 for 3 in the red zone) did not. "Our defense played great, special teams played great," said Brady. "Just have to do better offensively."
Defense held Steelers' passing game in check: The dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for just eight catches on 17 targets for 89 yards and one score against Patriots cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. Brown was obviously frustrated with Gilmore, as he called Brown "super dirty" after the game. Jackson had a great game — including a pass breakup in the end zone on a game-sealing pass to Smith-Schuster. Jackson drew the admiration of the veterans in the secondary. "I told him after the game we were proud of him," said Jason McCourty. "When he came here, I remember talking about him in camp, saying, 'He can cover his ass off.' He has a lot of god-given ability."
Road hazard: Patriots finished 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium, which is the second-worst mark in the Bill Belichick era behind the 2-6 records put up by the 2000 and 2009 team. The Patriots can finished no better than 11-5, which would be their worst record since the 10-6 '09 squad. Not exactly the greatest of company during the Patriots' great run under Belichick.
Patriots no longer control their playoff destiny: The loss dropped the Patriots to 9-5 and to the third seed in the AFC with two games to play. The Texans, who finish at the Eagles and home to the Jaguars, are the new No. 2 seed. As of right now, the Patriots would host the Ravens on wild-card weekend.
Patriots had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 5-yard line with 8:54 to play, trailing 14-10 when Marcus Cannon was flagged for the second time in the game, this time for holding to push the Patriots back to the 15-yard line. Cannon tackled Stephon Tuitt on the play — an easy call. After a minus-1 screen to James White, both David Andrews and Trent Brown allowed pressure and Brady tried to throw it out of bounds from the opposite hashmark off his back foot. Joe Haden picked it off between Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots' best chance to take control of the game was gone.
I'm sure there will be plenty of them, but we'll start at the end with the final play of the game. The Patriots just ran Edelman and Gronkowski down the middle of the field and both had double coverage. Brady didn't help himself by just throwing it up for grabs. The Patriots were just hoping for an answered prayer on the final play ... they couldn't come up with anything better considering the Steelers did them a favor by calling an Andy Reid-esque timeout prior to the play?
Duron Harmon: Had two interceptions to keep the Patriots in the game for a long time.
J.C. Jackson/Stephon Gilmore: Both of the Patriots' outside cornerbacks kept Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster (combined eight catches on 17 targets for 89 yards and one touchdown). The played really well, especially Jackson who broke up a potential game-clinching touchdown on the Steelers' final possession.
Running game: With the Steelers playing a lot of coverage and deathly afraid of the Patriots' passing game, the running game for the Patriots was about the only thing they could rely on in this game. Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White combined for 96 yards on 19 carries (5.1 average).
Marcus Cannon: Had two big penalties and basically couldn't block T.J. Watt all game as he was constantly in Brady's face both on his interception and the finaly play of the game.
Julian Edelman: Had two drops and two penalties — one of which wiped out his own 17-yard catch — as it looked like he was struggling with his left foot again.
Malcolm Brown: When the Steelers hit on their running game — and they had 108 yards on 14 carries (7.7 average) through three quarters — a lot of it came at Brown's expense. He has continued to be moved by the opposing offensive line and he can't get off blocks. Danny Shelton was inactive again.
Julian Edelman (right foot): Got his foot caught underneath in the aftermath of the Joe Haden red-zone interception.
Patrick Chung (right shoulder): Was dealing with something the entire game but toughed it out. Arm was in some sort of brace. Really felt it on Vance McDonald's third-down catch with six minutes left.
TWO TAKES BEDARD WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
It's not the defense on the road, it's the offense: Everyone loves to take shots at the Patriots' defense for their issues on the road and, while they haven't been great, fans have been too slow to put a lot of the blame on the offense away from Gillette. In three of the Patriot's five road losses, they've only scored 10 points (Detroit, Tennessee, Pittsburgh). The Patriots have averaged 21.6 points on the road this season. They've put up 31.8 at home. For a team with this much talent and Brady, that home/road split is embarrassing.
Patriots needed Tom Brady to be great today, and he wasn't: We talked about it coming into this game. Brady has been very good this season, but the great play we witnessed a season ago as he ran away with his third MVP award has been few and far between. With the defense doing all it could to hold the Steelers to 17 points, the Patriots needed to come up with one more touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter ... and he couldn't find it. Sure, there are 11 players on offense. But sometimes your star quarterback needs to take over a game. Brady had the opportunity in this one, and wasn't able to do it.