Patriots

Steelers expose Pats' defense in 25-17 victory

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Steelers expose Pats' defense in 25-17 victory

It isn't so much that they lost. It isn't so much that they now trail the Steelers in the most important tie-breaker -- head-to-head matchup -- of the playoff dance that will begin three or four weeks hence.

It's that the Steelers exposed the Patriots defense so badly Sunday in their 25-17 victory that it's hard to fathom how New England can be taken seriously as a legitimate championship contender unless dramatic, and immediate, changes are made on that side of the ball.

"It is statistically impossible for this team to win a Super Bowl with a defense this bad," Cold Hard Football Facts' Kerry Byrne said last week, and that was BEFORE the Pats surrendered

427 total yards

29 first downs

Pittsburgh drives of 68, 72, 76, 52, 70, 63 and 41 yards, which helped the Steelers run 78 plays (to the Pats' 50) and enabled them to control the ball for 39 minutes and 22 seconds.

Yes, the Patriots (somehow) kept it close. Yes, they came within a flubbed onside kick of having possession of the ball with three timeouts and a chance to win in the final 2 12 minutes. No, there's no reason to fold the tents and declare the Pats' season to be over.

But the onside kick itself was as big an indictment of how the Patriots feel about their defense as anything could be. They had just scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 23-17, and there was still 2:40 to play. A team that trusted its defense would have kicked deep, counted on the defense to get a stop, and used its timeouts (combined with the two-minute warning) to get the ball back with a chance to win.

Instead, the Pats tried an onside kick. It failed -- Stephen Gostkowski tapped the top of the ball and it didn't travel the required 10 yards (plus the Patriots were offside, anyway) -- and the Steelers took possession. The Patriots did force them to punt, for the first time all day, with 28 seconds left, but it left Tom Brady and the offense needing a miracle . . . and what they got instead was a screwball play in which the ball squirted loose after a Brady sackfumble and resulted in a Pittsburgh safety for the final two points.

"Not our best day out there," sighed Brady.

The defense wasn't totally at fault; the offense was uneven, as well, failing to find a rhythm until the very end. Several times the Pats had the ball with a chance to tie, but for the first three-plus quarters they could never put together the type of long, time-consuming drives that might have turned the momentum.

"We just didn't execute very well on offense," said Brady. "Too many three-and-outs, a poor level of execution all around."

"We never really played the game on our terms," he added.

But the Steelers did. The onslaught started early: Pittsburgh went 68 yards in 11 plays with the opening kickoff and took a 7-0 lead on a five-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger (36-for-50, 365 yards, two touchdowns) to Mewelde Moore. The Pats went three-and-out on what turned out to be their only possession of the first quarter, and Shaun Suisham made it 10-0 with a 33-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.

The Patriot defense redeemed itself -- and put the Pats back in the game -- a bit later, when Gary Guyton picked off a Roethlisberger pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders at the Steelers 25 and returned it 17 yards to the 8. From there, Kevin Faulk took it to the 2 and then Brady hit Deion Branch on the left side of the end zone for a touchdown that cut the Steelers' lead to 10-7.

But that defensive good feeling was short-lived. Roethlisberger and Sanders hooked up for 26 yards on the first play on the ensuing drive and for 7 yards (and a touchdown) on the last, the bookends of a 10-play, 76-yard march that rebuilt their lead back to 10 points, 17-7.

A 46-yard field goal by Gostkowski with 29 seconds left sent the Pats into the half trailing by just 17-10, and they took the second-half kickoff with a chance to tie. But they had to punt, and another 70-yard march by the Steelers resulted in a 21-yard Suisham field goal and a 20-10 lead. After Gostkowski hit the right goalpost with a 42-yard field goal later in the quarter, the Steelers made it 23-10 when Suisham hit a 23-yard field goal with 11:26 left in the game.

Still, considering the way Roethlisberger and his receivers were shredding the outmanned Patriot secondary, the game seemed more one-sided than the score . . . and Brady and the Patriot offense nearly came back and stole it. A one-yard pass from Brady to Aaron Hernandez with 2:35 left to make it 23-17, but that came a minute-and-a-half after the referees incorrectly ruled Hernandez wasn't in the end zone when he caught a bullet pass from Brady. And the fact that there were only 2 12 minutes left after the TD, instead of 4, may have helped influenced the decision on the onside kick.

"I thought about challenging it, but there was no evidence," said Belichick, referring to the fact that CBS -- the game broadcast is watched by the assistant coaches in their box upstairs -- didn't show a replay until two more plays had been run, because the Pats were in a no-huddle offense and there was no time. "I certainly couldn't see it from my angle and they didn't replay it . . . so there was nothing to tell us whether he was in the end zone or not."

The Pats then tried the onside kick. Belichick, for his part, said it wasn't a reflection on the defense.

"We had confidence in the play," he said. "Thought we would execute it well, thought we had a good chance to get the ball. Obviously it didn't work out that way."

Very little did on an afternoon that dropped the Pats' record to 5-2, pushed them back into a first-place tie with Buffalo in the AFC East, and raised real concerns about their championship hopes.

"Just wasn't a real good day for us," said Belichick, "in any phase of the game, in any area."

That's for sure.

In a surprise move, Chiefs sign Darrelle Revis

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In a surprise move, Chiefs sign Darrelle Revis

KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Chiefs needed help in their leaky defensive backfield.

Darrelle Revis was ready to provide it.

So the AFC West leaders signed the seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback on Wednesday, a surprising midseason move involving a big-name player. Revis played for the New York Jets last season, but his massive salary cap number combined with a decline in performance led to his release in late February.

Still, the Chiefs were desperate to find a cornerback to play opposite Marcus Peters. Terrence Mitchell, Kenneth AckerSteven Nelson and Phillip Gaines have all failed to hold down the spot.

"He's ready to go now," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said in a conference call with reporters. "He was coming off the wrist (injury) and that he had last year, you know - this is when he was ready to go. We felt the same way. So it was a nice, mutual agreement that took place and here we are."

Reid did not rule out Revis playing Sunday against Buffalo, either.

Four days is typically a quick turnaround for a player to get acclimated to a team, especially one that hasn't played a snap since the end of last season. But Revis has a few things going for him: He has a vast amount of experience from which to draw, he is already familiar with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's system having played for him with the Jets, and the Chiefs really have nothing to lose.

They enter the game with the 28th-ranked pass defense in the league, hemorrhaging more than 250 yards per game. That includes a 417-yard performance by Oakland's Derek Carr a few weeks ago.

"We've had some young guys trying their hearts out and doing a nice job for us, too," Reid said. "It's a win-win. You get a veteran guy and you have some young guys that will continue to grow."

Perhaps coincidentally, the Chiefs visit the Meadowlands to face the Jets on Dec. 3.

Revis at one point was considered the best cornerback in the league, picking off 29 passes over 10 seasons with the Jets, Buccaneers and Patriots. He won a Super Bowl ring with New England.

He parlayed that into a five-year, $39 million contract to return to the Jets, but a wrist injury slowed him down a couple of years ago. Revis struggled most of last season, looking as if the 32-year-old had lost a step for the first time, and the Jets made the decision to let him go.

He's spent the past summer and fall keeping in shape.

"He's been around awhile. He looks great physically," Reid said, "but time does that, time will take a step away from you. But he's a smart guy, knows how to play the game and that becomes important at this point in his career. I'm not telling you he can't still run, he can run."

Good enough to help the Chiefs (6-4), who had dropped four of their past five?

"Darrelle is a proven player in this league and we are excited to add him," first-year Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said in a statement. "He's had a Hall of Fame career and his leadership and playing experience will be valuable to our defense."

That may be where he is most beneficial: His experience. The Chiefs have little veteran presence in their secondary after safety Eric Berry was lost to a season-ending injury.

"You're talking about one of the all-time great players at that position," Reid said. "It's just a matter of getting him back in the swing of things and seeing where he's at. He's excited to be here. We are excited to have him. I would think his role would be to step in and be a starter."

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)