LeBeau finally gets the better of Brady

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LeBeau finally gets the better of Brady

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.

Safety.

"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.

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.