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Man, oh man: Coverage wasn't unexpected

AP Photo/Don Wright

Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered praise for how Pittsburgh played Sunday.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- During their day-after postmortems of Sunday's 25-17 loss to the Steelers, both Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady stressed that Pittsburgh might have used more man-to-man coverage on defense than they had previously shown, but it wasn't totally unexpected and it shouldn't have caused as many problems as it did.

To Belichick and Brady, the problem lied more in New England's inability to execute.

"They played us some man coverage, that wasn't anything that I would say that we haven't really seen before, but probably a little higher percentage of it than they've shown in other games," said Belichick. "We did work on it. Again, we just have to do a better job in those situations -- protecting, getting open, having plays that maybe everything could have happened a little quicker, a little cleaner."

Echoed Brady during his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI: "They do [play man coverage], that’s part of their scheme. They probably did it a little more yesterday than they’ve done in the past. But there weren’t many looks out there that we didn’t prepare for, or that we didn’t think they could do. It just really came down to our execution. We didn’t do enough on third down to stay on the field. We squandered some opportunities there. And when you play on the road against good teams, you don’t have much margin for error. We certainly made too many errors that allowed them to really control the tempo of the game, to control exactly how they wanted to play us. We never could really play on our terms."

Belichick made sure to stress that, while the Patriots caused many of their own problems, the Steelers did deserve credit for administering some of those headaches.

"I don’t want to get into it like everything was a self-inflicted wound," said Belichick. "I think they played well. They did a lot of things well. We had some plays -- not as many they did and that’s why the result was what it was. Obviously a competitive game, but they outperformed us."

Belichick didn't offer any update on the health of defensive lineman Shaun Ellis, who suffered a rib injury late in the first quarter and did not return ("We've got a lot of guys with bumps and bruises; We'll see how everyone is on Wednesday," he said.)

As for a pass-run ratio skewed heavily on putting the ball in the air, Belichick noted the situations contributed to that: "There were a lot of plays in the fourth quarter when we were down 10 [or] 13 points. Of course, there’s going to be more passes in the fourth quarter than there will be runs when you're in that situation. Some of it was situational, some of it was the fact that we were in long-yardage situation more than we wanted to be in them."