By Chad Graff, Mark Kaboli and Mike DeFabo
Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappé threw three touchdown passes in the first half of Thursday night’s game, leading New England to a 21-18 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots led 21–10 at halftime, but thanks to a second-half shutout by the Steelers defense and Mitch Trubisky’s touchdown run, the Steelers were able to score three points.
New England looks to get its third win of the season. According to Amazon Broadcasting, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to be over .500 and lose consecutive games to teams that were at least eight games under .500.
Jappe connected with Ezekiel Elliott once and Hunter Henry twice for scores in the first two quarters. Pittsburgh’s offense – which was criticized by fans – struggled with only one touchdown from Dionte Johnson before the half.
Zappé completed 19 of 28 passing for 240 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Elliott caught seven passes for 72 yards and added 68 yards rushing.
The start marks a stunning turnaround for the Patriots, who lost their last five games and finished in last place in the AFC East. The Steelers (7-6) are in second place in the AFC North.
Zappé works his way up to Patriots’ puck
The second half collapse overshadowed a really solid game for Zappé. In his second start of the season, Zappé completed 19 of 28 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He made some plays that the Patriots had not seen from their quarterback all season. But the second part was a reminder that there are limits. The team did not score any goals in the second half and had only one drive that gained more than 20 yards. Still, the first half was good enough that the Patriots will have a lot to look forward to heading into a long weekend. -Chad Graff, Patriots staff writer
Patriots defense key after offense slows down
The Patriots have put a lot in place to protect themselves. Special teams were bad again, with one punt blocked. Their attack in the second half was massive. The defense suffered from poor field conditions. But once again, the Patriots defense stepped up when needed and got key stops against Trubisky and the Steelers. It’s hard to play this type of football over a long period of time, but for the rest of this season, the Pats will have to try to win like this. Just hope their defense continues to play like this. – Graff
Steelers fail in comeback attempt
You have to give the Steelers a lot of credit for digging their way out of a big hole to start the game, but they also deserve a lot of criticism for allowing the Patriots to drive up and down the field. 21-3 lead. Having the ball with 2:44 minutes left in the game and having a chance to tie it or win was something no one had seen in the first half.
With Kenny Pickett out, it took Trubisky a while to get comfortable and that’s understandable. Nevertheless, conditions became so bad in the first half that 66,000 fans at Acrisure Stadium were calling for backup Mason Rudolph to enter the game. The offense sped up when the Steelers learned that Trubisky should throw horizontally instead of vertically. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Trubisky was forced to punt the ball down the field on three of his final four throws during a potential game-winning/tying drive. -Mark Kaboli, Steelers senior writer
Pittsburgh’s defense is a concern
The Steelers defense entered Thursday night as the NFL’s second-best scoring defense (19.0 points per game) and appeared poised for a big night against the Patriots’ weak offense. However, several injuries in key positions proved costly in the early stages. The Patriots targeted a weak inside linebacker corps on their first touchdown, when Elliott beat reserve linebacker Mychal Walker in the flat. Later, Jappé picked off nickel Chandan Sullivan for an 11-yard touchdown to tight end Henry, who had lost his job to running back Elijah Riley due to injury.
While the Steelers defense regrouped in the second half, the 21 points the Patriots scored in the first half with a backup quarterback should be worrisome. The Steelers have relied on their defense to play great and keep their struggling offense in games this year. If they can’t shut down one of the worst offenses in the league, it doesn’t bode well for what’s to come. , Mike DeFabo, Steelers Staff Writer
(Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)