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5 Patriots takeaways from Week 2 win vs. Steelers

Patriots, Nelson Agholor, Mattehw Judon, Mac Jones

The New England Patriots grabbed their first win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, 17-14. Let’s jump into five takeaways as New England moves to 1-1 on the season.

5. The ground game brings it home

When it was crunch time for the Patriots’ offense, they called ol’ reliable — and it worked. After going three-and-out in their previous drive, the Patriots got the ball back at their 30-yard line with 6:33 remaining following a Steelers three-and-out. Pittsburgh never got the ball again.

Rhamondre Stevenson appeared to pick up a first down on the second play of the drive, but a hold was called on Jakobi Meyers that made it 2nd-and-13. That was no problem for the Patriots. Mac Jones completed an 11-yard pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey before scrambling for a first down a play later.

Stevenson chugged forward for 14 yards on the ground in the next two plays. Damien Harris ran for 16 yards on the next play right before the two-minute warning. Following a two-yard loss, Harris gained nine yards on the next run and smartly remained in bounds to make the Steelers burn a timeout.

Harris finished the Steelers off by getting five yards on the 3rd-and-three carry, powering behind left tackle Trent Brown. While Harris limped off the field after the play, it sealed the win for New England.

The game-sealing performances capped off what was a strong day for Harris and Stevenson. Harris rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries and what ended up being the game-deciding touchdown while Stevenson had 47 yards on nine carries.

4. Nelson Agholor has his best game in a Patriots uniform

New England didn’t get much out of Agholor in his first season with the team in 2021. After a solid training camp and preseason, Agholor opened up the 2022 season with an underwhelming performance that saw him fumble on the Patriots’ final offensive play in their loss to the Dolphins.

Agholor was involved a lot on Sunday and made the biggest play of the game.

As the Patriots appeared to be looking at a field goal situation at best before the half, Jones took a chance when he saw Agholor deep in one-one coverage along the right sideline. Jones underthrew Agholor by a touch. That didn’t matter though because Agholor fought over Steelers corner Ahkello Witherspoon to make the grab and run in for the 44-yard touchdown. The score gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead entering the half.

Agholor added another big reception in the second half, taking a short pass from Jones and turning it into a 25-yard gain. He finished the day with six receptions, catching all six targets, and had 110 receiving yards to go along with the touchdown.

3. Mac Jones made some questionable decisions, but also made the throws that mattered the most

The Patriots’ second-year quarterback hasn’t really been too much to blame for New England’s offensive struggles through the preseason and in Week 1. However, Jones almost made himself responsible for what could’ve been a loss for the Patriots on Sunday.

In the first half, Jones got ambitious on a third-down play. Instead of throwing to Jakobi Meyers, who looked to be open underneath for what would’ve been a first down, Jones took a chance downfield to DeVante Parker. It had the same result as Jones’ ambitious throw to Parker in Week 1. Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick ended up intercepting the pass as Jones’ throw wasn’t strong enough and Parker didn’t make a great effort to win the contested battle.

In the Patriots’ penultimate possession, Jones was locked in on tight end Jonnu Smith instead of waiting a moment longer for Kendrick Bourne or Jakobi Meyers to possibly get open. The Steelers broke the pass up and forced the Patriots to punt.

Those mistakes didn’t matter in the outcome, though, partly because of the throws Jones made. Obviously, Jones made the big connection to Agholor for a touchdown before the half that ended up being a difference maker. He also made two key plays in a row as noted earlier.

Jones found Meyers often, too. Meyers finished the day with nine receptions for 95 yards, with three of those receptions resulting in first downs on third-down plays.

2. The Patriots’ offensive line looked out-of-sync and sloppy

New England’s big boys up front provided enough push for the running backs, but it was far from a clean day for the unit.

The Patriots’ offensive line committed four penalties while a fifth penalty was called for a delay of game. There were a couple of timeouts New England had to call too because it wasn’t ready as the play clock was about to expire.

There also doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of trust in the unit to protect Jones. The Patriots operated out of the shotgun on every play of their opening drive in the second half and worked out of the shotgun in 22 of their first 25 offensive snaps of the second half. They also ran six plays on their game-sealing drive out of the shotgun, too.

1. Matthew Judon saves the day for the defense

The Patriots’ defense wasn’t off the most impressive start of the day. The Steelers converted six of their first seven third-down conversions. However, that resulted in just three points in the first half.

Steelers quarterback Mitchell Trubisky carved up the Patriots’ defense though in a drive that crossed over from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, which made it a 17-14 game. New England didn’t allow a big yardage play on the drive, but Pat Freiermuth was wide open when he made his eight-yard touchdown grab.

But when it mattered most, the Patriots’ defense stepped up, which they didn’t do against the Dolphins. Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon made three tackles over those two drives and on the Steelers’ final play of the day, he got in coverage and forced a pass to Najee Harris to fall incomplete.

Judon’s key tackles and pass break-up were certainly his biggest plays of the day. He had a sack late in the first half that killed any hopes the Steelers had of trying to get a field goal.