Here’s our weekly look at the key plays in the Patriots’ game after reviewing the film.
The Steelers finally switched up their defensive game plan, primarily playing man coverage against the Patriots’ offense.
And they often played tight press coverage, daring the Patriots’ receivers to beat them off the line of scrimmage.
Of course, tight end Rob Gronkowski did beat his defender off the line of scrimmage, consistently.
Even though the Steelers played man coverage, they kept their nickel defense in even when the Patriots used two tight ends or a full back.
This created situations where Gronkowski got lined up one-on-one against a much smaller cornerback, and he took advantage.
The Steelers also tried to take away the short middle part of the field with an extra defender. On this play, quarterback Tom Brady has enough time to wait for Gronkowski to streak open.
But for some reason, the Steelers went back to zone on the Patriots’ final drive, and Gronkowski slipped wide open for 26 yards.
The Antonio Brown Effect
The Patriots put a safety over the top of receiver Antonio Brown on every snap.
And the safety always shaded to his side of the field instead of playing the middle.
This created one-on-one matchups and a lot of space for the other Steelers receivers.
It also put cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe on islands and forced them to make the play or give up a long gain.
But when Brown left with a calf injury, it freed up the safety to play the middle of the field and for Butler to cover a lesser receiver in Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Better to be lucky than good
On tight end Jesse James’s overturned touchdown, the Patriots had significant communication issues, with cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe covering the same receiver and leaving James wide open.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Devin McCourty also weren’t covering anyone as James should have had an easy catch and touchdown.
|Steelers (60)||Total (985)||Percentage|
|G Shaq Mason||60||982||99.70%|
|G Joe Thuney||60||980||99.50%|
|QB Tom Brady||60||971||98.60%|
|LT Nate Solder||60||970||98.50%|
|C David Andrews||60||846||85.90%|
|TE Rob Gronkowski||60||781||79.30%|
|WR Brandin Cooks||57||915||92.90%|
|OT Cam Fleming||46||204||20.70%|
|WR Danny Amendola||37||474||48.10%|
|RB Dion Lewis||33||301||30.60%|
|TE Dwayne Allen||26||397||40.30%|
|WR Phillip Dorsett||25||306||31.10%|
|RB James White||20||384||39.00%|
|FB James Develin||18||296||30.10%|
|RB Rex Burkhead||16||196||19.90%|
|OT LaAdrian Waddle||14||326||33.10%|
|TE Jacob Hollister||3||65||6.60%|
|WR Kenny Britt||2||2||0.20%|
|WR Chris Hogan||0||591||60.00%|
|RT Marcus Cannon||0||478||48.50%|
|RB Mike Gillislee||0||156||15.80%|
|OL Ted Karras||0||141||14.30%|
|TE Martellus Bennett||0||24||2.40%|
|QB Brian Hoyer||0||14||1.40%|
|OL Cole Croston||0||8||0.80%|
|WR Matt Slater||0||8||0.80%|
|RB Brandon Bolden||0||3||0.30%|
|Steelers (67)||Total (934)||Percentage|
|CB Malcolm Butler||67||911||97.50%|
|DE Eric Lee||44||199||21.30%|
|S Devin McCourty||67||922||98.70%|
|CB Stephon Gilmore||67||702||75.20%|
|S Patrick Chung||67||815||87.30%|
|DT Malcom Brown||53||466||49.90%|
|LB Elandon Roberts||53||491||52.60%|
|DT Adam Butler||19||413||44.20%|
|DE Lawrence Guy||49||519||55.60%|
|LB Marquis Flowers||7||197||21.10%|
|CB Jonathan Jones||1||418||44.80%|
|S Duron Harmon||28||627||67.10%|
|LB Trevor Reilly||0||57||6.10%|
|LB Jon Freeny||0||18||1.90%|
|DE Deatrich Wise||32||487||52.10%|
|S Jordan Richards||14||217||23.20%|
|DT Alan Branch||0||273||29.20%|
|CB Eric Rowe||54||172||18.40%|
|CB Johnson Bademosi||0||203||21.70%|
|LB David Harris||31||182||19.50%|
|LB Kyle Van Noy||0||699||74.80%|
|DE Geneo Grissom||0||10||1.10%|
|DE Trey Flowers||64||705||75.50%|
|DT Ricky Jean-Francois||20||60||6.40%|
|DE Cassius Marsh||0||267||28.60%|
|LB Donta Hightower||0||237||25.40%|
|DE Harvey Langi||0||6||0.60%|