Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday night’s game against the Steelers and offers some of his second-quarter observations:
1. After the Patriots moved 45 yards on three plays to begin their first drive of the second quarter, they tried to catch the Steelers off-balance by using a play action and fake end-around play from the Steelers’ 35-yard line. The play was well-executed, with WR Brandon Tate getting behind the deep safety and Brady delivering an accurate pass. However, CB Bryant McFadden was able to recover and break up the pass after Tate had slowed up on his route going into the end zone. If called from around midfield, where Tate would have enough space to finish his route, this play would have been a touchdown.
2. On their second possession of the second quarter, the Steelers threatened to score for the first time after RB Rashard Mendenhall’s 34-yard run on second-and-9. On the play, OLB Jermaine Cunningham was turned inside and pushed to the ground by TE Matt Spaeth, while LCB Devin McCourty blitzed and was caught out of position to the inside. The absence of these two players on the outside allowed Mendenhall to turn the corner, as ILB Brandon Spikes was blocked out by TE Heath Miller. Safety Patrick Chung played Mendenhall to the outside, helping to keep the run contained inside. The tackle was then made downfield by safety Brandon Meriweather, in backside pursuit.
3. The Patriots continued to blitz unusually often as the Steelers tried to score on their second drive of the quarter. The Steelers did a better job in protection than they had done in the first quarter, with Roethlisberger able to move out of the pocket – not necessarily a negative for him – and deliver an accurate pass to WR Antwaan Randle El in the end zone on a third-and-3 from the 4-yard line. Chung trailed by a step in coverage but recovered well to hit Randle El as he was making the catch, and it fell incomplete, forcing a field goal.
4. After a pass-heavy first half, the Patriots tried to gain yards on the ground using RB Danny Woodhead late in the half. First, on a third-and-4, a draw play by Woodhead fell short of the first down after TE Rob Gronkowski and LG Logan Mankins could not hold their blocks long enough. When the Patriots got the ball back, they began their drive with another draw to Woodhead. This time, Mankins went for ILB James Farrior in the second level instead of the closer defender, ILB Lawrence Timmons, who came in free to make the stop.