The Patriots will look to bounce back after a disappointing loss to the 3-5 Cleveland Browns when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday night.
The Patriots (6-2) are coming off of one of the worst losses in recent memory after being thoroughly dominated in a game that conventional wisdom said they “should have won.”
New England looked horrific on both sides of the ball, averaging only 3.4 yards-per-carry and completing only 50 percent of their passes while turning the ball over three times.
“We were out of sync all day,” Tom Brady said to reporters after the game. “It was not a good day at all. As an offense, we didn’t do much to advance the ball, and that includes the quarterback. If we play like we played today we are not going to beat anybody,” Brady added.
Wide receiver Deion Branch doesn’t expect the effects of the Cleveland game to linger. “It’s going to be a different team; I will tell you all that right now,” Branch told reporters on Monday.
It will need to be a different team if the Patriots are going to be able to put up a fight against the league’s best defense.
The Steelers come into the game allowing only 15.4 points-per-game and an absurd 58.3 yards rushing. Both are the best in the NFL.
If the Steelers defense is going to be beat it will have to be done through the air. They are giving up an average 240 passing yards, which is 24th in the NFL.
This game will be a huge test for the Patriots’ wide receivers, which have been almost non-existent since the departure of Randy Moss. Many of the team’s recent offensive problems have rooted from the poor play of the receivers and their inability to get open consistently, especially last week in Cleveland.
Most conspicuous by his absence is Wes Welker, who hasn’t produced at his typical level since Moss left. Welker has only 18 catches for 138 yards with no touchdowns in the four post-Moss games.
On the other side of the ball, look for the Patriots to see a large dose of Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers workhorse is a powerful runner, much like Hillis, but he also has the breakaway speed that Hillis lacks once he gets into the open field. If they can at least slow Mendenhall down, the Patriots will have a much better chance of containing Ben Roethlisberger and will be less vulnerable to the big play action pass to the explosive Mike Wallace. If Mendenhall is running free and the safeties have to creep up to stop him, Wallace could have a big day.
Overall, this could be the toughest game the Patriots have all season, but it is still a game they can win. They have the advantage of having faced Cleveland a week ago, who beat them the same way the Steelers will try to; with a power running game and a physical defense.
This looks like a game that the Steelers “should win,” but the Patriots heard the same thing when they walked into Cleveland last week. Expect the Patriots to bounce back and have a chance to win the game.
by: Mark Feury