Sunday, December 09, 2007

Steelers @ Patriots: Odds & Ends

There's no denying it: The New England Patriots are hateable
But why is it so? Is it really about The Hoody and his cheating, boorish behavior; or the fact that Tom Brady seemingly has a contract with GQ that requires that he be on its cover every two or three months (when he's not impregnating attractive women, then immediately begins dating another)? Or perhaps its because Scott Pioli has a text message alert on his phone whenever the Steelers cut a player. Sure, it could be all of that -- but why don't fans of the Steelers hate Tom Coughlin (the original Steelers' roster raider)?

No, it seems clear that the source of the enmity is something off the field. The view from here that the reason the Patriots are hated has to do with the ridiculous fawning of the media. It's Tony Kornheiser announcing in the fourth quarter that "if the Patriots hand on to win this [game] they're going undefeated!" Sure -- struggling to beat a 4-7 team is just the hurdle the Patriots needed to clear.

Or perhaps its just the "Patriots" item on the ESPN crawler with its "Pursuit of Perfection" subtitle that keeps pushing me a little closer to the edge.

It's all about scoring
In the first twelve games of this season the New England Patriots have scored in 44 of the 48 quarters they have played. Meanwhile their opponents have been shutout in 20 of those quarters; and only the Baltimore Ravens (the 26th rated scoring offense in the league) scored in all four quarters of their contest against the Patriots.

Here's a look at the Patriots' per quarter scoring averages for the season:
  • 1st Quarter: 9.17
  • Second Quarter: 12.08
  • Third Quarter: 6.92
  • Fourth Quarter: 10.92

Here are the Patriots' opponents' scoring averages:
  • 1st Quarter: 2.58
  • 2nd Quarter: 5.42
  • Third Quarter: 3.67
  • Fourth Quarter: 5.75

Meanwhile, the Steelers have scored in 36 of the 48 quarters they have played (included in that is having been shutout for the first three quarters of the game against Miami), while limiting their opponents to scores in 25 quarters -- including two shutouts (versus Seattle and Miami).

Here's a look at the Steelers' per quarter scoring averages for the season:
  • 1st Quarter: 5.42
  • 2nd Quarter: 7.33
  • 3rd Quarter: 5.08
  • Fourth Quarter: 6.83

And here are the Steelers' opponents' scoring averages by quarter:
  • 1st Quarter: 3.33
  • 2nd Quarter: 3.42
  • 3rd Quarter: 2.50
  • Fourth Quarter: 3.42

The real keys to the game
Experts -- people who actually earn a living paying attention to professional football -- have offered their insights into exactly what will make the difference in Sunday's game. And while we all enjoy reading about how Tom Brady has to do this, or James Harrison has to do that, the real keys are the same each week, irrespective of the opponent. Here are a few to look for today:
  1. The battles in the trenches: Controlling the line of scrimmage the single biggest key to the game. If the Steelers are able to run the football, and Ben Roethlisberger has time to throw the ball they will score. Conversely, if the Steelers defensive front controls play the Patriots will struggle. It doesn't get much simpler than this.

  2. Pressure on the quarterback: Related to point one, all of this talk of a "blueprint for beating the Patriots" is nonsense -- the Ravens and Eagles were the first teams this season able to get sustained pressure on Tom Brady, and anyone who saw either of those games saw what can happen to even the best quarterback when the defense comes crashing in. However, not all pressure is crated equal -- a pass rush that comes from the middle of the line is far more effective than pressure off the corner, especially when the quarterback is not sacked.

    Related to this is what to do with Casey Hampton. Mr. Hampton is routinely pulled when the opponent's offense is in a passing situation. However, New England's willingness to throw on any down makes for a matchup challenge for Dick LeBeau.

  3. Special Teams: All fans of the Black & Gold who have seen Troy Brown kill the Steelers on kick returns won't soon forget it, and while the return specialist is different the challenge is not. Mile Tomlin said it earlier in the season: "As a kick coverage team we stink," and if they stink this week it's going to result in a loss.

  4. Turnovers: The Cincinnati game not withstanding, the Steelers have to be perfect with the football all day long. Stated another way, if the Steelers are -3 in takeaways against New England they're going to lose by at least 21 points. The Patriots are more than capable of driving a long field, give them a short field and New England will put 50+ points on the board.

Not to state the obvious but the Steelers face their toughest test this season and they will have to play flawlessly in order to have an opportunity to win.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic will be online at half time with a look at the numbers from the first two quarters, and a look ahead to the second half.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home