PITTSBURGH -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 25-17 loss to the Steelers:
What it means: The Patriots (5-2) didn’t deserve to win the game, which could play a role in home-field advantage come playoff-time. The Steelers dominated. This was an extremely physical contest, with a lot of pushing and shoving and both teams not backing down. The Patriots scored a touchdown with 2:35 remaining to close to 23-17, but couldn’t execute an onside kick. The Patriots did get the ball back with 19 seconds remaining, but Tom Brady was sacked by Brett Keisel and the ball went out of the back of the end zone for a safety to close it out.
Pass defense shredded: The Steelers moved the ball with ease, and the score would have been more lopsided had the Patriots not come up with three holds inside the red zone (in addition to a missed 44-yard field goal). That was the bright spot for the Patriots’ defense – getting tough inside the 20 – but their inability to come up with third-down stops in other areas gave the Steelers a major time of possession advantage. The Steelers didn’t punt in the game until there was 28 seconds remaining. Bill Belichick figures to get plenty of questions about the disappointing performance of his team's pass defense.
Offense can’t get things going: All week, the story was how the Patriots and Brady have owned the Steelers’ defense. This game serves as a reminder that history means little. The struggles were in part traced to a lack of opportunities. For example, the offense only had the ball for three plays in the first quarter. At the same time, the struggles were tied to being too one-dimensional as the Patriots could never get their running game going. The Steelers pressured Brady and played physical with the Patriots' pass-catchers, with Brady noting they played more man coverage than the norm.
Personnel report: Kevin Faulk played in his first game of the season after being activated from the physically unable to perform list and he was on the field more than any New England running back. … Receiver Chad Ochocinco was a non-factor again (0 catches in limited playing time). … Linebacker/defensive captain Jerod Mayo did not start and was the fourth option, with Brandon Spikes leading the defensive huddle for the majority of the game and playing alongside Gary Guyton and Rob Ninkovich in the base. … Antwaun Molden, who took over the role of released Leigh Bodden as the third corner, was replaced by Phillip Adams in the third quarter.
Injury sidelines Ellis: On the injury front, the Patriots lost veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis in the first half. He did not return. Brandon Deaderick, activated from the PUP list Saturday, took some of his snaps.
What’s next: The Patriots return home to face the Giants on Sunday. The Steelers host the Ravens on Sunday.