On further review, Pats-Saints 1st half

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On further review, Pats-Saints 1st half

Impressions from the first half of the Patriots' 7-6 win over the Saints on Thursday night. On Chandler Jones' first pressure during the first drive of the night, he was very late off the snap but still got around Jermon Bushrod to force Drew Brees to throw it away. Devin McCourty was in great downfield position on Brees' long attempt to end the first Saints drive. The only caveat was that he was covering a tight end, Dave Thomas. Rob Gronkowski had an edge block on Stevan Ridley's first sweep that went for 8 yards.

The second-down play, a counter to Danny Woodhead was really well-designed and could have broken long if the pulling Donald Thomas had kicked out the corner and Woodhead had followed him. On the incompletion to Brandon Lloyd down the right sideline, Dan Koppen snapped the ball while Tom Brady was still gesturing to call out blocking assignments. The timing of the play was a mess. On the ensuing sweep to Ridley, Koppen got caught in the wash at the linebacker level, didn't get downfield and the middle linebacker Curtis Lofton croaked Ridley. When Dane Fletcher tore his ACL, he was trying to plant his left foot and it rolled just a little. Almost a non-contact injury. On the deep post thrown to Brandon Lloyd, the back judge was in the wrong place and practically in the way. Had Brady led Lloyd more, there would have been a collision. The timing on the early screen plays was bad. On the first one, Ridley got stuck in the line while trying to leak out and Brady had nobody to throw to. Randy Cross threw out a "Woodley" when referring to Danny Woodhead. On the strip sack of Brady, Marcus Cannon's missed block was more egregious than Nate Solder's. Jerod Mayo showed excellent coverage skills throughout. He had back-to-back good covers and tackles of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. His tip that led to the pick by Steve Gregory was a very athletic play. One thing Ridley can do that BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't do much in 2011 - he makes the first guy miss. Watching the game again, you could see why Bill Belichick was somewhat pleased with his offense, run blocking. In the first quarter, several plays were very well blocked. Dont'a Hightower showed great power on two plays - one tossing the Saints tight end Higgins 20 feet out of bounds with a little shove, later meeting a Saints running back Chris Ivory hard in the hole and jolting him. Hightower did a poor job diagnosing a simple run through the middle by Pierre Thomas that went for 13 yards.
On the third-and-22 completion to Courtney Roby, Sterling Moore appeared to be trying to force Roby inside but Roby stutter-stepped on his release and got to the sidelines, putting Moore in chase mode where he doesn't have the speed to catch up. Ryan Wendell had a full-on whiff that got Brandon Bolden drilled in the first quarter. Ryan Mallett was just brutal on his first series but quite a bit better after that. He showed good pocket mobility on a couple of checkdown throws.

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.