|Remember last time Steelers played at Gillette Stadium? Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin weren’t happy afterwards||01.18.17 at 9:40 am ET|
It’s been roughly a year and a half, but it’s worth looking back at the last time the Steelers played at Gillette Stadium.
It was Sept. 10, 2015 and the Patriots raised the Super Bowl XLIX banner on a Thursday night to open the season.
The Patriots won the game 28-21, but the story of the game came afterwards when it was learned there were issues with the Steelers’ headsets in the first half.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers were hearing the Patriots’ radio broadcast.
“That’s always the case,” Tomlin said after the game, inferring there are always some sort of issues occurring at Gillette Stadium.
The league said the Patriots were not to blame for the issue, saying a “stadium power infrastructure issue” caused the problem. It was brought up to Bill Belichick on a conference call the following morning and he went on a great rant, speaking on he number of times the Patriots franchise has been accused of things.
Belichick called things going to a “pretty low level.”
“It’s pretty common — there’s a lot of stuff down there, there’s the coach-quarterback stuff, offense and defense; there’s the headsets to the press box; there’s a lot of stuff going on there and, you know, we had some problems. Just as an example: We had some problems in the first half and then it seemed to be OK, and then we got to the end of the game and the most problems we had were on our last two possessions on offense and defense.
“So sometimes it goes along and it’s fine, and then for some reason something happens and then you go to the guys on the sidelines — the blue hats or the purple hats, whatever they’re called — and you tell them about it and they fix it. I don’t really know enough about technology to know how any of that works, but that’s how it goes. We ended up hard-wiring a couple of our headsets to eliminate the wireless part of it. It’s not an uncommon problem. We ended up having to signal some of our plays offensively. We couldn’t get them in. We look at it as something you have to be ready for every week, and we practice it — home, away, I don’t think there’s really any common denominator on that.”
|5 things Patriots need to improve on in order to beat Steelers in AFC championship||01.17.17 at 2:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Clearly, the Patriots did not play their best football in Saturday’s win over the Texans at Gillette Stadium. While they won by 18 points — 34-16 — it was about as poorly as a team could play and still win by that much.
As Bill Belichick noted to his team after the game, if it plays like that again, the season will likely be over.
Here are five things the Patriots need to clean up when taking on the Steelers Sunday in the AFC title game.
The Patriots turned the ball over three times in the divisional round game against the Texans. If they do that again, there’s almost zero shot of them winning. Besides Tom Brady throwing two interceptions, Dion Lewis put the ball on the ground twice, but luckily the Patriots recovered one of them. Belichick constantly preaches to the team to play turnover-free ball, as that is the No. 1 stat that correlates to winning.
New England is 20-1 in the postseason when winning the turnover battle and also, since 2001 when not turning the ball over the Patriots are 91-10. If the Patriots don’t turn the ball over there’s a good chance they will be going to Houston for the Super Bowl, but if they do multiple times, there’s a good chance they will be watching the game from the couch.
2. Red-zone efficiency
There’s nothing more frustrating than leaving points on the board in the postseason. When the Patriots reach the red zone, they need touchdowns. Even further, when the Patriots have goal-to-goal situations, they really need touchdowns. Including Saturday against Houston, the Patriots have scored touchdowns in 11 of their last 16 red-zone opportunities, but have only eight touchdowns in their last 12 goal-to-goal chances.
The possession that stands out most was at the end of the first half against the Texans. The Patriots had first-and-goal from the two-yard line and came away with a field goal. Sometimes the offense tries to get too cute in these situations instead of handing it off to the NFL’s rushing touchdown leader in LeGarrette Blount. When the Patriots have a goal-to-goal situation, they need to come away with a touchdown.
|What was Patriots locker room like after win over Texans? ‘Big day for Rutgers’||01.16.17 at 9:31 pm ET|
As usual, Patriots.com gave an inside look at the Patriots locker room following the win over the Texans.
Dion Lewis led the way with three touchdowns and owner Robert Kraft went up to the running back and noted they both aren’t very tall.
“This is for all of the medium height guys,” Kraft said when giving him a hug.
Bill Belichick addressed the team, noting they have to play better next week to win, but did give a shoutout to Rutgers, as all three defensive players from the school had an interception (Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon).
“Big day for Rutgers,” Belichick said with a smile.
EXCLUSIVE: #Patriots locker room celebration following the win over the Texans
— Patriots.com (@PATRIOTSdotCOM) January 16, 2017
|Bill Belichick on D&H responds to Steelers’ Facebook Live video: ‘I’m not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat’||at 4:46 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Rich Keefe on Monday to look ahead to the AFC championship game against the Steelers. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
After their win over the Chiefs Sunday night, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown posted a Facebook Live video, which has since been deleted, inside the locker room where coach Mike Tomlin was captured calling the Patriots a-holes.
Belichick was asked for his thoughts and responded in typical Belichick fashion.
“Yeah, as you know I’m not on SnapFace and all that, I don’t really get those,” he said. “I’m just really worried about getting our team ready to go. I’m not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat, or whatever it is.”
The coach was asked if the Patriots have any rules on social media in the locker room, but he remained focused on Sunday’s game.
“We’re really just focused on trying to play well and win this week. The AFC championship game is really what it is about,” Belichick said.
As for the Patriots getting a head start on game planning by way of playing Saturday night, Belichick didn’t offer much on that, either.
“When the games are scheduled we show up and play them,” he said. “We don’t have anything to do with the schedule. When we’re supposed to be there, that is when we’re there.”
New England will be facing a confident Steelers team, as they have won nine games in a row. They are led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and Brown.
Belichick knows the Patriots defense will have its hands full.
“Well, Roethlisberger looks good,” he said. “He’s as healthy as I’d say we’ve seen him all year. He didn’t play in our game, but going into that game he wasn’t quite the same. Last night he had a play, first I thought was a quarterback draw, but it wasn’t. He just missed a hand off, but took the ball and ran it up the middle with what looked like a draw play he turned it into a quarterback draw. His ability to move around is good. Not sure that’s been like that in other games we’ve played him. He certainly looks mobile and can extend plays. That’s always a bad thing for the opponents.
“Bell is a special guy. He is really hard to tackle. Great runner. Good vision. Very patient. Has a real good burst through the hole. Brown is a top receiver in the league. Great punt returner. Big play guy in the passing game, but as a catch and run player he is equally dangerous like we saw in the Miami game — take a slip screen, take an under route, catch a ball two or three yards down field and turn it into a 60-yard touchdown. Those three are elite players. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways.
“They have a good receiving group. They have good tight ends. The offensive line is big, physical and they do a great job in the running game. They do a great job protecting Roethlisberger, so it’s a very high-powered offense. Very explosive. They can do a lot of damage in different ways.”
|Bill Belichick better not see any of his players try to pull others off a pile anymore||01.15.17 at 1:48 pm ET|
When cameras caught Bill Belichick berating Eric Rowe for committing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for pulling Houston’s Ryan Griffin off a pile in the first quarter Saturday, it was pretty obvious that the Patriots coach was not pleased with his defensive back.
That penalty extended the Texans drive and allowed Houston to chew up over eight minutes of the first half clock and helped to keep Tom Brady on the sideline and out of rhythm. The Texans were only able to muster three points but the point was clear: You can’t pull players off a pile in a scrum.
It was a mistake with big consequences Saturday, and Belichick had not completely let the matter go when asked Sunday if there was any gray area because Rowe’s intentions might have been good.
“What’s the right thing? What are you talking about? What’s the right thing?” Belichick said, completely flabbergasted. “You can’t do that. There’s no… you can’t do that. You can’t pull players off a pile. That’s not the right thing. That rule is clear-cut. There’s no question about it. You can’t do that.
“You can’t do things that are defined by the rules as illegal. You can’t do them, period. There’s no right thing to do [by getting involved]. The rule is the rule. You have to play the game by the rules. Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of coaching it, do a better job of coaching all the rules.”
After the game, Belichick noted several times that he was disappointed in the coaching effort.
“We can’t hold,” Belichick added. “We can’t get personal fouls. We can’t do things that are against the rules, or we get penalized for them. There’s no ‘doing the right thing.’ The right thing is playing within in the rules. Now, football’s football. Sometimes, you’re trying to do the right thing, and you get called for something. Sometimes, stuff happens.
“Vincent got his hands up a little high and pushed the face mask back of the lineman and (was penalized for illegal hands to the face). It was a good call. I don’t think it was intentional but he did it and didn’t get it down quick enough and they called him for it. That’s football. But as a team, we’ve got to make good decisions and play penalty-free. That’s our goal every week. So, the right thing is to play within in the rules – period. It’s black and white.”
|In wake of 18-point win, Bill Belichick sounds alarm for his staff: ‘We have to coach better than we did tonight’||at 2:41 am ET|
FOXBORO — In some ways, it was the perfect scenario for Bill Belichick following his team’s 34-16 win over the overmatched Texans Saturday night at Gillette.
The Patriots won to advance to their sixth straight AFC title game and even covered in the process. They got a key part of their offense on track in Dion Lewis. Julian Edelman moved up the ladder among all-time great NFL receivers with eight catches and 137 yards.
But then there were the three turnovers, the inability to score a touchdown before the half from inside the five yard line three times and allowing Tom Brady to get hit time after time by the Texans pass rush. There were – as they say – plenty of teaching points for Belichick to harp on this week as they get ready for the AFC championship at Gillette on Jan. 22.
“We’re going to have to play better, coach better,” Belichick said. “I don’t think the coaching was all that good tonight, either. We have to play better, we have to coach better than we did tonight, or there won’t be much left in our season. Hopefully we can do that and up our level of performance next week. Again, give the Texans credit. They did a good job. Defensively they gave us a lot of problems. We had six first-downs in the first half. We threw up a couple of prayers and came down with them, made a couple of good catches with Chris [Hogan] and Julian. We just didn’t have any consistency at all offensively, couldn’t run it or throw it very well.”
The Patriots were actually reeling before the half, leading just 14-13 and sensing the crowd at Gillette get a bit more nervous than anyone expected coming in. The Patriots were able to get three points to take a 17-13 halftime lead on a 19-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.
“Well, it was good to be able to get the last opportunity there,” Belichick said. “We drove it down. We got the ball to the one-inch line but couldn’t get it in. I might’ve thought about going for it on fourth-down, but when we lost yards there on third-down, the ball was on about the – I don’t know, one, one and a half, whatever it was – instead of on the one-inch line, then I didn’t really think very much about going for it at that point. It’s good to get the three points. We had the ball to start the second half because we deferred to start the game.
“But it would’ve been nice to get seven. We had a couple of good chances. We just didn’t get it done. Again, like a lot of things tonight, if we don’t improve in those situations the next time we play then it’ll probably be the last time we play. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities. We’ve got to coach and execute better. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that done this week.
How extraordinary is it to be in the position to go to six straight AFC Championship games?
“I mean it’s great to be playing at this time of year,” Belichick conceded. “You’re one of four teams that’s left after the weekend, but again, I mean I don’t really care about the other five years right now, or however many years it’s been. The only thing that matters is this year, this team, and what we have an opportunity to do, what we need to do to move on to play again.
“We can talk about all of that other stuff some other time. For right now, it’s just this team and getting to the AFC Championship Game and playing our best game next weekend. That’s what we’re going to need to do. We’re going to need to play our best game, better than we played tonight.”
|Scene-setting: Patriots look to ice out Texans and make NFL playoff history||01.14.17 at 5:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The time has finally come for the Patriots to get about their business of making playoff history.
The Patriots will host the Texans in seasonably cold conditions at Gillette Stadium in their seventh straight AFC Divisional home game.
Temperatures are expected in the mid-to-upper 20s for the 8:15 p.m. kick and then drop into the low 20s by the end of the game. There is a slight chance of flurries around 8 p.m. but otherwise, there is little chance of precipitation. There will be a wind out of the south at 7 MPH making it feel like 18-to-20 degrees throughout the game.
The Patriots enter the game having won their previous five AFC divisional round games. Their last loss came in Jan. 2011 when they were stunned by the Jets, 28-21, at Gillette, one of just three home playoff losses in the history of the building.
Overall, the Patriots are 14-3 in home playoff games at Gillette and 18-4 overall at home in Foxboro.
Should the Patriots, who are 17-point favorites in some places, advance, they will become the first team in the Super Bowl era to advance to six straight AFC Championship games. They are tied with the Raiders, who also played in five straight between 1973 and 1977.
A win against the Texans will also give the Patriots 30 playoff win in their franchise history. They will join the Steelers, Cowboys, Packers and 49ers as the only five to have reached that plateau.
The Patriots will get back the services of wide receiver and punt returner Danny Amendola, who injured his ankle against the Rams on Dec. 4 and missed the last four games. Malcolm Mitchell is not expected to play, as he was limited all week in practice with a knee injury.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will not attend the game in Foxboro Saturday night.
The Texans have never won a road playoff game in three tries. One of those losses was to the Patriots in Jan. 2013, when the Patriots beat Matt Schaub, 41-28, at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots were the No. 2 seed that year and lost to the Ravens the following week in the AFC Championship.
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