Looking back at the AFC heavyweight bout between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are a few points which are very clear.
Firstly, on the Steelers side, they are a very different team when healthy. However, they were outplayed in all phases of the game yesterday, as the Patriots earned a complete victory.
On the Patriots side, here is what I noticed:
1. Last week, Brandon Spikes was the linebacker the Patriots sent in to penetrate on run plays, letting Jerod Mayo patrol the middle of the field.
This week Mayo was called upon more than a couple of times to hit the point of attack.
The Patriots are finding a good balance between sending Spikes and Mayo, changing schemes enough to put question into the minds of offenses.
2. Tom Brady was, in fact, off over the past two games. This week reminded us that Brady can be the best quarterback in the NFL.
He struggled in the past couple of games, whether due to injury or just mis-communication, but receivers hung onto passes and Brady was hitting guys in stride.
3. The Patriots running game is built off of their passing game. Most of the time, a good passing game is the result of a good running game. However, the Pats showed that once Brady got clicking, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Co. became more effective.
Best team in the AFC?
The Patriots compiled the most rushing yards against the Steelers this year, running for 104 yards.
4. The Patriots defense is built to be opportunistic. They are not a great defense in the sense that they won’t hold teams to 10 points week-in and week-out.
However, they create turnovers, are very strong in the red zone (especially with Pat Chung), and can rush the quarterback.
The Patriots had struggled in rushing the passer, but it seems they can beat slower offensive lines with Banta-Cain, Cunningham and Warren, and they have the potential to cause trouble with faster lines because of Wilfork.
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