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Performance Review: Steelers-Patriots

1st Quarter

…Tough break for rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell[1] on the opening drive. He saw a Tom Brady[2] pass go straight through his hands at the Steelers’ 5-yard line that would have given New England a 1st-and-goal set of downs. The throw was on target, but Mitchell had his hands too far apart as the ball arrived.

He should have had them more in the classic W formation. …Next possession, Brady was sacked on 3rd down when DT Javon Hargrave put a nifty move on rookie LG Joe Thuney[3]. Hargrave faked like he was going to Thuney’s outside shoulder, then cut back inside.

Thuney bought the initial fake and stepped too far to his right to try to recover. In so doing, he surrendered his leverage. Now off-balance, he was susceptible to Hargrave’s simple shove, which sent Thuney to the turf.

Hargrave now had a free shot at Brady, who gave himself up in the backfield. …Looked like some kind of blown assignment by Pittsburgh that allowed WR Chris Hogan[4] to roam free into the end zone on his first touchdown catch. Three Steeler defenders were on the right [offensive] side of the field, where Hogan, Danny Amendola[5], and Julian Edelman[6] were lined up.

However, all three chose to play shallow to cover the routes of the latter two receivers. Hogan was the only one of the three to run a deep route, and he was unmarked from the beginning. One of the defenders, likely CB William Gay, should have picked up Hogan.

Instead, New England went up 10-0. …Pittsburgh’s star back, Le’Veon Bell, didn’t have much of a chance to impact the game because he suffered a groin injury late in the first quarter. Up to that point however, New England’s defense was doing a good job of stifling him, in large part because of their adherence to sound gap fundamentals.

Bell is the kind of back that likes to be patient in the backfield and wait for a hole to open up before he darts through it. The Patriots’ front, including safety Patrick Chung[7], who dropped down into the box frequently, maintained their responsibilities at the line of scrimmage – not improvising to try to make an individual play on Bell. As a result, Bell wasn’t finding many lanes through which to run, and when he chose his spots, they closed rapidly because the Patriots were playing patiently and reacting to him, rather than the other way around.

Still to come, a closer inspection of Quarters 2, 3, and 4. Read[8]

References

  1. ^ Malcolm Mitchell (www.patriots.com)
  2. ^ Tom Brady (www.patriots.com)
  3. ^ Joe Thuney (www.patriots.com)
  4. ^ Chris Hogan (www.patriots.com)
  5. ^ Danny Amendola (www.patriots.com)
  6. ^ Julian Edelman (www.patriots.com)
  7. ^ Patrick Chung (www.patriots.com)
  8. ^ Read (www.patriots.com)

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