Patriots doomed by third-down misery

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Third down was cruel to the New England Patriots.

John Paradise of ESPN Stats & Analysis produced some interesting analysis on Sunday's home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and found the Patriots might've wanted to turn Canadian and punt on third down rather than run an offensive play.

The Patriots converted one of their 13 third downs.

"You can't win like that," Patriots receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "You have to pick up third downs and keep the ball, and we didn't do a good job of that."

Their lone conversion happened on the final play of the game on a short pass to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who meandered his way through a relatively indifferent Steelers prevent defense.

On third down, quarterback Matt Cassel was 2-of-9 for 25 yards with an interception (another dropped in the end zone) for a 0.0 passer rating. Cassel also was sacked twice for minus-14 yards and lost fumble.

Take away Green-Ellis' garbage-time scamper and Cassel was 1-of-8 for 5 yards on third down.

In his previous 11 games, Cassel had been sharp on third down. He completed 65 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and one interception for a 105.0 passer rating.

Also on third down, Steelers safety Ryan Clark knocked Wes Welker out of the game with a vicious hit in the third quarter.