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The New England Patriots were blitzed early and often on Sunday, falling 25-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers to fall to 5-2 on the year at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Patriots offensive was ineffective all afternoon. Pittsburgh pressured the New England signal caller and bottled up the Patriots’ rushing attack in the Steelers’ victory. Tom Brady passed for just 198 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady connected on a second-quarter strike to Deion Branch and fourth-quarter TD to Aaron Hernandez.
The ground game tallied only 43 yards on 12 total carries, with Kevin Faulk leading the team with 32 yards in his first action of the season.
While the offense contributed mightily to the loss, the defense was unable to produce anything of substance either.
New England surrendered 365 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger while allowing the Steelers to convert 10-16 third-down attempts. Pittsburgh also garnered 98 yards on the ground which helped the Steelers win the time-of-possession battle 39:22-20:38.
Rob Gronkowski – The sophomore tight end from Arizona proved that last year’s big game against the Steelers was no fluke, hauling in seven receptions for 94 yards. Gronkowski helped generate a few of the rare first downs, and often bullied Pittsburgh tacklers at the end of plays.
Andre Carter – The chiseled veteran helped to somewhat slow down the Pittsburgh passing attack. Carter was responsible for two of the team’s five total sacks.
Gary Guyton – The unheralded linebacker helped turn around an early 10-0 deficit, intercepting Ben Roethlisberger and returning the pick 17 yards to the Pittsburgh 8 to set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
Stephen Gostowski – Gostowski had a few crucial mis-kicks that were vital in determining the game. The Memphis alum missed a crucial 42-yard attempt in the third quarter down 20-10, and was called for a pair of penalties on late game onside kicks.
Offensive Line – The Steelers are known to have a good defense, but New England was unable to mount any sustainable attack. Brady was knocked down four times, sacked three times, while the line was whistled multiple times for false starts.
Third-Down Defense – Once again, the Patriots’ defense showed an inability to get off the field. Pittsburgh appeared to be unstoppable on third-down situations with 10 conversions in 16 chances, which contributed to five drives of 10+ plays.
The Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium next Sunday, taking on the New York Giants in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII at 4:15 on FOX.
In other important AFC East action, the Buffalo Bills will host the New York Jets in a pivotal divisional tilt at 1:00 on CBS.