After losing on a miraculous play last week to the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots (9-5) lost 17-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) in the Steel City on Sunday.
It was not an easy game for New England as Pittsburgh dominated them on both sides of the ball in the first half. The Pats tried to get their act together in the second half and actually had a chance to tie it at the end.
But the Steelers’ defense did a great job of pressuring quarterback Tom Brady and making tight end Rob Gronkowski a non-factor in the red zone. The Patriots have now suffered back-to-back losses in December for the first since 2002 and will now have to wait another week to clinch a playoff berth.
Here are three takeaways from this AFC battle:
1. Pats will have to wait to clinch the division
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Steelers, the Patriots were the third seed behind the Houston Texans (10-4) who defeated the New York Jets on Saturday night and owned the second seed.
However, with a victory over Pittsburgh, New England had an opportunity to not win the AFC East but also clinch a playoff berth. As we see, that did not happen as this loss furthered cement them as the third seed in the AFC playoffs.
If the playoffs started today, the Pats would be facing the upstart Baltimore Ravens on wildcard weekend.
2. Defense can’t stop Samuels
For the second week in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers were without second-year running back James Conner. This meant that it would be the Jaylen Samuels show once again.
After a quiet performance last week against Oakland, the rookie out of NC State had a career-day against New England’s defense, which came into Sunday’s game giving up 113 yards per game on the ground.
Samuels had 142 rushing yards on 19 carries, which was more than what the New England’s running game mustered on the ground (96 yards). This is the second week in a row that the New England has given up over 100 yards on the ground.
3. Pats cannot overcome mistakes
If New England wants to understand why they lost another winnable game on the road. All they have to do is look at the number of penalties and penalty yardage.
The Pats committed many penalties over the course of the game and it cost them precious field position. In totality, New England committed 14 penalties for 106 yards. When you are giving up that many yards in penalties, it makes your life tougher.
Along with the penalties, New England’s offense really could not capitalize off of two Duron Harmon interceptions. Brady, instead, made a critical mistake late in the fourth-quarter throwing his first red-zone interception in 180 pass attempts.