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Steelers waste opportunities in loss to Patriots

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Missed opportunities cost the Steelers, playing without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, as they fell to the first place Patriots 27-16 at Heinz Field.

Head coach Mike Tomlin outlined “real specific” reasons after the game why he thought the Steelers lost.

“I’m going to be real specific about why we came up short,” Tomlin said. “We realized that our margin of error was minimal. We left some redzone possessions out there. We threw an interception when we were down there. We missed a field goal (actually two). You can’t do that.

“We didn’t come off blocks and make enough tackles in the run game,” Tomlin continued. “You can’t waste redzone trips. You can’t give up explosion plays. We did. That’s why we lost.”

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
The game started out promising for the Steelers as Jarvis Jones stripped Chris Hogan and recovered the forced fumble on New England’s 44 yard line on the Patriot’s first possession.

The Steelers took advantage of the short field and drove to the New England 16 yard line. However, Landry Jones tried to find Antonio Brown in the endzone but Malcolm Butler had position the whole time and picked off the errant pass.

“Antonio Brown is one of the best, if not the best [wide receiver]. He has no flaws,” Butler said. “We just go out there and try to be the best team that we can be. It’s about winning the game.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick felt the early interception was a key to the game.

“Obviously, Malcolm Butler interception was a big play for us at the start of the game to keep them from getting ahead,” Belichick said. “Our red area defense kept them off the board when they had a couple situations.”

The Patriots knew what to do with the ball when they recovered a turnover and drove 80 yards on 13 plays capped by a Tom Brady 19 yard touchdown to James White to give New England a 7-0 lead. It was a 14-point swing and proved to be the difference in the game.

The Patriots extended their lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter when former Steeler LeGarrette Blount banged in from the three yard line. The Steelers stacked their defense to stop the passing game which left plenty of running room for the former Steelers back,

PLAYER OF THE GAME
Blount tore up Pittsburgh’s defense for 127 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns.

It seemed at that point the Patriots were going to romp, but the Steelers found their rhythm and got back into the game. Jones hit Darius Heyward-Bey for a 14 yard touchdown on the ensuing possession and it was a game again as the Steelers trailed 14-7.

With less than five minutes left in the second quarter, the Steelers could have tied the game and taken control of momentum but it was not to be.

PENALTY OF THE GAME
Jones hit Heyward-Bey on a crossing route for a 14 yard touchdown but it was called back as converted guard Chris Hubbard, playing right tackle for the injured Marcus Gilbert, was called for holding on the play. Two plays later, kicker Chris Bosworth missed a 42 yard field goal and it took the wind out of the sails for the Steelers

Boswell booted a 32 yard field goal late in the second quarter and the Steelers went into the break trailing 14-10. Boswell added another field goal midway through the third quarter, this time from 46 yards, and the Steelers trailed by one point.

It would be the closest the Steelers would get though, as the Patriots took back control of the game when Brady hit Gronkowski over the middle for a 36 yard touchdown with less than seven minutes left in the third quarter and led 20-13 (PAT was missed).

Steelers Le'Veon BellBoswell booted a 44 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and the Steelers trailed 20-16 but they could not score again. Blount scored his second touchdown of the game on the ensuing possession and New England’s defense held Pittsburgh scoreless the rest of the game.

Also, early in the fourth quarter, Greg Warren recovered a Julian Edelman fumble on a punt but the Steelers could not manager a first down. They tried a 54 yard field goal on fourth down and three, but it was wide right. Tomlin was questioned that decision after the game.

“[Boswell] made a similar kick last year in that same spot on the field and the weather conditions were worse,” Tomlin said. “We had an opportunity to make it a one-score game. I took that chance.”

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