PITTSBURGH -- There was a lot of talk leading into Week 8 about Dick LeBeau's defense.
In the football world, the term rolls off the tongue with gravitas: Dick LeBeau's Defense. The product of a Hall of Famer. The brainchild of a defensive innovator.
And the plaything of quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady's dominance over the Steelers became a focus of the matchup. Would it continue? Would he add to his 6-1 career record against the Steelers? It was his numbers in those wins -- 14 touchdown passes and one pick -- that made the feat so stunning.
But Dick LeBeau is a genius!
The coordinator is once again a winner as of Sunday. Brady completed 24 of 35 pass attempts for 198 yards and two touchdowns in New England's 25-17 loss. His 101.8 passer rating is deceptive; the Patriots never established consistent offense and was downright bad compared to Pittsburgh.
And the numbers grew lopsided early.
Total yards through the first half: Patriots 83, Steelers 261
Time of possession through the first half: Patriots 8:47, Steelers 21:13
Brady's offense had 19 total first downs to Ben Roethlisberger's 29.
The Patriots went 3-fior-10 (30-percent) on third down. Pittsburgh went 10-for-16 (63-percent).
When it was all over, Brady walked through the tunnel to the locker room alone. It took him longer than usual to take the podium. He arrived in a three-piece suit, the eye-black and scowl washed away.
"Well, we just didn't execute very well on offense," he said. "We didn't compliment our defense well. In the first quarter we had an opportunity to go answer their score and we go three-and-out. There was too many three-and-outs. Just a poor level of execution all the way around. We need to look in the mirror and figure out what we need to do better, try to go out and play better next week.
"We never really played with the lead, we never really played on our terms. I think they played very well defensively. They have a lot of great players over there, great scheme, great coaching. We give them, certainly, a lot of credit and we understand that if we play like that we're not going to beat many people at all."
Brady lamented their lack of adjustment. LeBeau set his secondary in man coverage, at times using six defensive backs. And they blitzed, blitzed, blitzed -- a trademark of his 'D', even though not in zone. Three times Brady was sacked (twice by LaMarr Woodley) and the last was the worst: New England was down six with 19 seconds to play. First-and-10. Brady comes out of shotgun and gets pulled down by Steelers lineman Brett Keisel for a loss of three. Fumble! Keisel touches it at the New England 15 before the ball bounces into the end zone and out of bounds.
"They blitz 50 percent of the time anyway as a defense, and certainly a lot more than that on third down. It's a lot of pressure," Brady said. "You've got to be able to stand up to the pressure. You've got to be able to complete tight throws and we just didn't do that.
"I think they played more man coverage then they've showed all year. And the way you beat man is you make plays against it and get them out of it. And we didn't do enough of that."
Not having a clear downfield threat is a problem. Chad Ochocinco was on the field for less than 10 snaps and got his feet tangled with a defender on the one deep post route he was targeted on. Brady only looked at Taylor Price once (incomplete). The longest ball caught by any Patriot was tight end Rob Gronkowski's 23-yard reception.
The offense did finally string a second touchdown drive together in the fourth quarter. It was exactly what the team needed: 10 plays, 67-yards and two Pittsburgh penalties in three minutes and 28 seconds. Brady fired his gun quickly, accurately, finding all his favorite targets: Welker for eight, Branch for 16, Gronkowski for 19, Faulk for 18. They were battling. In those minutes, the Steelers looked soft and the Patriots had purpose.
It just wasn't enough.
Pittsburgh failed on its ensuing drive, but so did New England. And it all ended with that fumble.
"It's a good football team. We played them on the road. There's not much margain for error when you play a good team on the road. We certainly made plenty of errors," Brady said.
Just as Dick LeBeau designed it.