AFC Champions once again!!
by Dean Nicosia 1/23/05
Patriots win...Patriots win!!!
With Dillon back and healthy, the running game was on track
Branch was missed last time, this time he was key!
Samuel breaks this pass up
Tom Brady...8-0 in post season
best coach ever?
Patriots win, Patriots win....I'll never get sick of saying that, and I'll never get sick of seeing it happen. For so many years, we endured the basement status, and stuck by our team, while our friends watched their teams win championships. Now it's our turn to enjoy the winning, it's our turn to enjoy the championships!!
What a game it was in Pittsburgh, and as I wrote before the game, the Patriots came out and played physical, and won the game in the trenches. They did what they failed to do the last time these two teams met on Halloween, but they learned from that experience and played tough on the line, stopping the Bus in his tracks. Pittsburgh is a team that runs the ball well, by opening up holes for a man named after a large vehicle to smash through, the Patriots closed those holes, and smashed the Bus back. That is no easy task!
I also wrote before the game that while we missed Dillon in that last game, and would be glad to have him back, there was another offensive player that we were missing, Deion Branch. Branch had 116 yards receiving and a TD, and he also had 37 yards rushing and a TD. He is a clutch player, and he proved that today. He had two long receptions, that took the wind out of the Steelers sails, and he also tacked on two long end-arounds, using his speed and his soft hands. Having him in the lineup also opens up players like Givens and Graham to make plays.
Dillon was shut down some of the time, and didn't finish with huge numbers, 24 rushes for 73 yards and a TD, but that is a huge improvement from the first meeting with the Steelers where without Dillon the Patriots had 5 yards rushing. This Steelers defensive line is as tough as their offensive line, they make it very tough to run on, and they control the line of scrimmage. Today, the Patriots edged them out in that battle, and as the game wore on, they gained control of that trench too. They gave Brady time to throw, and they provided some holes for Dillon to run through. The key was that Dillon was able to run the ball well enough to help sustain drives, and keep the ball out of the Steelers hands when it looked like they were making a comeback. Yes it was nice having Dillon back.
The Patriots also did a much better job in the secondary today, picking off Big Ben 3 times, once by Harrison for a TD. As I wrote earlier, that Patriots secondary lost Law during that first match up, and had to replace him on the fly. Nine games later, after going 8-1 in those games, the New England secondary was much more prepared for the task of shutting down the big tough receivers of the Steelers. Second year players Wilson and Samuel were excellent in the secondary, with Wilson coming up with two big INTs. They covered well and tackled even better.
Most of all, the game was one in the turnover battle. The Steelers turned the ball over 8 times, and the Patriots did not turn the ball over. In big games like this, you just can't do that. The Patriots defense came out looking like they had something to prove, led by linebacker Teddy Bruschi, who did a great job of stopping the running backs of the Steelers all day. They played like they were the underdog, and they answered the call of how tough they really were. They stopped the run, created turnovers at big times in the game, and they scored once. When the Steelers made some plays and started to get back in the game, the defense stepped it up, and made the the key stops.
Pittsburgh is a very good team. They play tough smash mouth football better than most of the teams today. There is a reason they won 16 in a row, that tough style of football is very hard to defend. You need to play smash mouth football back, to even hope to stop them. That is just what this Patriots team did today. They went from playing a finesse team and beating them at that game, in the Colts, and this week they played "Mud ball" on the level of the Steelers. That is what makes this Patriots team so impressive.
Here we go, back to the Super Bowl, with two weeks to prepare for it. Stay tuned right here for more stories and a game preview. And most of all, enjoy this big win!
Go Patriots and God Bless!!