Sunday Morning Joe: It isn't Ben and the offense that decides the outcome in Foxborough
In Pittsburgh, though, he couldn't do it. In fact, the only drive he appeared ready to add another six to the scoreboard, Joe Haden Tony Toe-tapped the sideline and allowed the Steelers to walk away winners.
As much as we love to blame the Steelers' defense, and as much as they rightfully deserve it, they play unthinkably well against the NFL's best quarterback.
Well, they did. Last season, the Steelers lost a number of games due to their defense. From Oakland to LA, Denver, Kansas City and New Orleans, it's hard to say that, even with a last second interception in the endzone, any of them were the offense's fault.
Week 15 was different. Statistically, the Patriots and Steelers walked away playing one of the most even games of the season. A matter of 5 plays, 1:30 time of possession and 8 yard difference separated the two in the final stat line.
The real difference was momentum. T.J. Watt talked prior to the game about how the defense needed to produce more turnovers. Well, it waited almost the entire game, but they finally got one - their only one.
It hit a point where the Patriots were doing something they never do; shoot themselves in the foot. With a little over 11 minutes left, Shaq Mason was called for a holding penalty that sent New England back to the Steelers' 21-yard line. They never returned to the redzone.
Pittsburgh's defense wasn't this good every year. The three times the two met prior, they allowed 27, 36 and 28 points. They lost every game.
Can you see the correlation?
It isn't on Ben. Ben plays well most weeks, and has proven himself enough to win games when he needs to win them. It isn't on the running game or JuJu or the o-line. The offense scores plenty of points every week, using their 51 touchdowns in 2018 as a benchmark.
What it comes down to is the defense. The 11 players who have made plenty of strides, and did enough before this offseason to beat the Patriots a year ago. They don't need to shut down Brady, who threw for 279 yards and a touchdown, or the running game. What they need is to play consistent.
To play at a level that remains at the level. For 60 minutes, produce a quality game that does enough, key word, to allow their offense to win the game.
27, 36 and 28 won't be good enough. 10 probably will. And as long as they can keep the game in control for the other 11 players on their team, they can walk away with a Week 1 victory and a page turned in their history books.