A back-and-‘fourth’ game for Patriots

December 10, 2007 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Both the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reason to be proud after Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won, 34-13, to stay undefeated (13-0). The Steelers showed grit against the best team, record-wise, in the National Football League — particularly on three plays, all of them on fourth down.

The first two came on a 12-play Pittsburgh scoring drive in the second quarter. The Steelers had to convert two fourth downs to preserve the drive, and did so both times, once via the run (by Najeh Davenport) and once on a pass (from Ben Roethlisberger to Cedrick Wilson). Thanks to coach Mike Tomlin’s faith in his team, the Steelers finished the drive with a field goal that made the score 14-13, Patriots.

Early in the fourth quarter, after the Patriots had widened the margin with two touchdowns and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, Pittsburgh approached the end zone and had a first-and-goal. Stalled by the Patriots on the first three plays, Pittsburgh went for it again instead of opting for a field goal. Though the Patriot defense averted a score from Hines Ward, Pittsburgh should come away from this game with a reputation for grittiness that should enhance its confidence that it can play with the top teams in the league.

Perhaps the arrogance that characterizes Pittsburgh history (most recently seen when rookie safety Anthony Smith guaranteed a win against New England) helps the team on fourth down. New England fans might remember another fourth-down play in a 7-6 playoff loss to the Steelers of Kordell “Slash” Stewart and Jerome “The Bus” Bettis in 1998. During that game, Pittsburgh had a chance to increase its lead and sent in Slash on fourth down, only to have the defense stuff the run. Then-coach Bill Cowher ultimately won a championship with such confidence. His successor, Tomlin, showed similar confidence Sunday night; maybe he, too, could bring another title to the Steel City.

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Entry filed under: Football, New England Patriots, sports. Tags: , , , , , .

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