Patriots humbled by surging Steelers

Posted Oct. 31, 2011, at 6:33 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 31, 2011, at 10:01 p.m.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Upon further review, the New England Patriots see there is a lot of work left to do if they are to contend for the AFC championship.

The Patriots watched video Monday of a 25-17 loss at Pittsburgh the day before. And they didn’t look any better the second time around.

“There are things they did that obviously caused some problems,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “We either didn’t make adjustments to it quick enough or in some cases we tried to adjust to it but we just couldn’t get it done the way we needed to get it done. Overall, they just did a little better job than we did.”

The Patriots had a somber look in the locker room Monday after watching the video and most declined interview requests.

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New England (5-2) fell behind 10-0 and was never able to complete the comeback. The Patriots ran just three plays of offense in the first quarter and the weary defense couldn’t stop the Steelers, who drove 68 yards for a touchdown on the opening series.

Pittsburgh also converted 10 of 16 times on third down and held the Patriots to just 213 yards of offense.

Still, the Patriots had a chance after Tom Brady’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez cut the lead to 23-17 with 2:35 left.

“We played a good game. We fought it out all the way, but they played a better game. They were ready,” safety Patrick Chung said.

The Patriots are back at home this week, hosting the New York Giants (5-2).

Quarterback Tom Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio that the Steelers’ defense did a good job of forcing the Patriots out of any hopes of a balanced offensive game.

“When you play the Steelers, you’ve got to be somewhat balanced. You’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently. And then when you throw it, you’ve got to throw it on your terms. We were throwing it on their terms all day,” Brady said.

“They’ve got a good defense. They have a great scheme. They have one of the best defensive coordinators of all-time and some incredible players on defense. Like I said, we’ve got to try to learn from it and go out there and play better this week.”

Sunday’s meeting will be the first time the Giants and Patriots play in the regular season since New York’s improbable 17-14 Super Bowl victory Feb 4, 2008.

STATUS CLOUDY FOR NICKS

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants may be heading to New England for their first regular-season game against the Patriots since their Super Bowl season without their top receiver and one true deep threat.

Hakeem Nicks tweaked a hamstring on the Giants’ next-to-last series of the 20-17 win over Miami and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain.

Coach Tom Coughlin described Nicks’ injury as day to day, but hamstring injuries are troublesome. Cornerback Aaron Ross was sidelined for most of the 2009 season with a hamstring problem.

Nicks’ injury is a major concern because the Giants have relied on the passing game much more this season with the running game bogged down. The third-year pro is tied for 13th in the league with 38 catches, and that’s despite drawing frequent double coverage.

“He’s a big-play guy and he stretches that field for us and he’s a guy that can go up and get it at any given time and change the momentum of the game,” said second-year pro Victor Cruz, who would probably replace Nicks in the starting lineup if he could not play. “We understand that he’s important to our team and losing a guy like that, you’re losing a big chunk of your offense.

“Our guys have to step up. We have to get our running game going. Myself and Mario (Manningham) and Devin Thomas and Michael Clayton are going to have to step in and fill that void.”

Nicks was not in the locker room to discuss his injury, which happened while running a pattern late. After the game, he said he felt something wrong on the play and took himself out just to play it smart. He walked off the field with his hand on his right hamstring.

The team would not say which one he hurt.

Cruz, who caught a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with less than six minutes to play, hopes to see Nicks on the field on Sunday. If not, he is ready to step in.

“Anytime you get an opportunity to go in there and play and have an opportunity to be the number one or two guy and make some big plays, you always want to be excited,” said Cruz, who has 28 catches for 497 yards and four touchdowns despite his limited playing time. “I understand for us to play at a top notch, we need all three of us to be out there and to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Nicks has missed some time in his first two seasons. He sat out two games with a leg injury and one with a broken toe last year, and two early in his rookie season with a foot injury.

These Giants have found ways to overcome injuries, though. When Manningham missed the game against the Eagles, Cruz stepped in and caught three passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

New York also has another option if Nicks cannot play.

Ramses Barden, a third-round pick in 2009, has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since training camp with an ankle injury. He started practicing last week, so the Giants have 21 days to decide whether to activate him or put him on injured reserve.

Barden believes he is ready.

“Hakeem is a good guy,” Barden said. “He is a friend of mine. You don’t want to see anybody go down. We’re hoping for the best for him. He is expecting to be around. If I was in his head, I would guarantee he’s thinking he’s playing and I hope he does. But at the same time, we have to be prepared for whatever circumstances present themselves and in my mind I’m playing regardless, even if he was healthy, I’m thinking: ‘I’m the guy.'”

The offensive line could take some of the pressure off the passing game by generating a little rush. New York was limited to 58 yards on Sunday.

Guard David Diehl said Nicks is tough, so he is hoping he plays.

“Like I said, that puts a stress on us to get the run going, but it also allows other guys to make plays down field,” Diehl said. “Victor Cruz has been playing unbelievably well. (Then, there’s) Mario Manningham. It gets guys in there that we know can step in and do the job.”

Nicks isn’t the only player the Giants have to worry about.

Center David Baas hurt his right knee in the first half. He felt it more on Monday than Sunday.

“They checked it out on the sidelines and stuff like that,” said Baas, who would be replaced by Kevin Boothe. “If I was stable enough to go back in and play, that’s a positive sign. My hope is very high. We just have to watch it day by day.

“Tomorrow, seeing how it felt from today will be a big factor.”

Baas was to undergo tests on Monday afternoon.

Coughlin said running back Ahmad Bradshaw had a sore foot. He missed some time in the second half while it was X-rayed, but returned and played on the game winning drive.

The most serious injury was a broken right arm suffered by defensive back Justin Tryon, who played the final 2½ quarters with the injury, not telling team trainers about it. He made a tackle on Reggie Bush on a late punt return that pinned the Dolphins at their own 16 and might have hurt his arm even more on the play.

“The thing that I appreciated and I was standing close by, as the doctors were showing him and talking to him about his injury,” Coughlin said. “He didn’t want to hear about it and all he wanted to know was when he could play again. He said, just put a cast on it and I will play and that was something to hear a kid talk about how badly he wanted to play. It was quite an inspiration for me to listen to that and I wanted you to know about what he did.”

Tryon had surgery Monday and probably will miss the rest of the season, Coughlin said.

 

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