For as awful a first half as he had, Troy Polamalu made a splendid effort to separate Stevan Ridley from the ball to first off the second half.
When you run wide receiver screens, it opens up the defense for screen fakes. The Steelers ran that after the fumble and it got Le’Veon Bell nine yards on first down on a dump off pass.
Once again, Ben Roethlisberger is responsible for his own sacks. Bell chips the end and turns to take the pass, but it never comes. He steps up into the pocket, unbeknownst to Marcus Gilbert but very much so to the attention of Chandler Jones.
The adjustment by Jerricho Cotchery on the first touchdown pass was outstanding. It is no wonder Roethlisberger kept going back to the savvy veteran receiver.
On the ensuing possession, LaMarr Woodley made the tackle on a running play on first down, affected the second down pass by hitting Tom Brady’s arm, and was at the quarterback’s feet on third down to help influence an incompletion. Brady doesn’t like rushers at his feet.
Antonio Brown’s strong punt return came in spite of Isaiah Green. From what I’ve observed, he did not prove to be much of an asset on special teams, so I’m not surprised to see him go again.
Roethlisberger’s second touchdown pass to Cotchery was pinpoint, right over the defensive back’s shoulder.
Surprisingly, continuing to allow Rob Gronkowski free releases still did not work any better in the second half.
The beginning of the third quarter could hardly have gone any better for the Steelers, right up to the point that they tied the game, but it quickly got ugly almost immediately after the tie.
For the only time in the game, Woodley was out, Jason Worilds moved over, and Jarvis Jones was in. The Patriots quickly drove down the field until Woodley came back in when they reached the Steelers’ 12. Worilds and Cameron Heyward had perfect timing on third down on the sack to force a field goal.
But that was the last time the Steelers would be able to stop the Patriots.
The ensuing kick return by Felix Jones was pretty awful.
The drive was going well in spite of that, however, until somebody forgot what to do on a busted play that forced Roethlisberger to scramble for no gain. The second down pass was one Emmanuel Sanders should have had. The defensive back did an excellent job to even get a finger on it, but the redirection was not so much that it was uncatchable.
Brady was targeting William Gay on the ensuing drive and found quite a bit of success, including the touchdown to Aaron Dobson. He gave up three receptions on the drive, including a third and six conversion, though that one was in zone.
Mat McBriar and Antwon Blake deserve credit for flipping the field after being caught back in their own end, but of course it didn’t end up mattering.
After Vince Williams was knocked out of the game, Stevenson Sylvester struggled against the run.
That included the Stevan Ridley touchdown run that ended the drive. But it was Lawrence Timmons bouncing off the back for a missed tackle.
Although he was unable to hang on to a second down pass, Cotchery came up big on the ensuing drive, including converting the subsequent third and 10 play.
Bell did not step up, dropping his second pass of the night.
After Gilbert got injured, Mike Adams really stepped in at right tackle and did a good job, at least as far as the results go. He still has some clear technical issues to work on, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t start at right tackle if he had to.
The Steelers clearly got tired of being gashed with the run, so much so that both Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark completely sold out on the run, which allowed Dobson to get behind both of them for the 81-yard score.
One would think the thought of putting in Bruce Gradkowski should have crossed Mike Tomlin’s mind at this point.
I think once the play has been going on for seven seconds, the sack probably falls on the quarterback, right?
Not that Roethlisberger had anybody to throw to on that play, but a throwaway would have been an awful lot better than an eight-yard loss.
Of course, on the next play, he avoided a sack, dumped a ball off to his back, and converted a second and 16.
I have no problem with Brown being benched after running the wrong route and being responsible for the interception. Some would ask why bench Brown and not Polamalu. To me, however, the answer to that question is obvious.
LeGarrette Blount had a big lane to run on the first play after the interception thanks to Sylvester and Clark
Steve McLendon made the tackle on the next play—the only problem is that he tackled Ziggy Hood instead of Blount. Hood had a hold of the back before McLendon accidentally pulled him off for the touchdown.