Sunday, December 09, 2007

Steelers @ New England:
Instant First Half Analysis

Here's some perceptions from the first half of what is shaping up to be a veritable grudge match (thanks Anthony Smith):

First Quarter
  • The pace of the game is going the Steelers way -- the Patriots had two possessions thanks to a nice opening drive by the Steelers.

  • The Steelers' offense did a great job of using Heath Miller in the opening drive. Rodney Harrison cannot cover Mr. Miller, nor can the New England linebackers.

  • Lousy kick coverage all but negated the success of the opening drive; and the short field allowed the Patriots to go 52 yards in 9 plays (their most efficient drives are in the 5-9 play range).

  • The Steelers rushing struggles continue: Willie Parker had 13 yards on 6 carries.
Second Quarter
  • Big plays all the way 'round! Ike Taylor and Anthony Smith were burned badly on an outstanding play fake by Tom Brady -- a play like that was bound to happen (remember a couple of years ago on the first play of the Monday night game versus Indianapolis?) -- but their eagerness to stuff the run seems misplaced. The Patriots are a throwing offense, and they should have both been more concerned with Randy Moss streaking by.

  • But then the Steelers offense came up with a huge play of their own to cut the lead to four -- Najeh Davenport in a downfield pass pattern? I'm glad I saw it, because I would have never believed it.

  • Someone tell William Gay that when he's running down the field on a kick return that he should pull his head out of his butt. Alan Rossum was trying to wave everyone off the ball, and Mr. Gay didn't get the message. And that was after he was flagged for running out of bounds on an earlier punt.

  • The offensive line is beginning to show some spark -- Marvel Smith has been especially effective -- and as a result Willie Parker is beginning to find some holes (11 carries, 56 yards).

  • Having said that, Willie Colon has got to figure out how to block Mike Vrabel.

  • The defense is going reasonably well limiting the Patriots to field goals rather than touchdowns. Following the 63-yard pass to Randy Moss the Patriots have run 15 plays and scored three points while the Steelers have run 17 plays and scored 10 points.

  • Finally, after being limited to two drives in the first quarter the Patriots had four possessions in the second quarter -- a pace of play that will hurt the Steelers if it continues.

There's lots of work to do in the second half, but the Steelers are in the game. If they can continue to limit the Patriots to field goals, while holding on to the ball themselves, it should make for a thrilling Steelers victory!



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