Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots was a huge game for both teams.
It pivoted on a rare mistake from one of the game’s all-time greats.
Trailing 14-10 halfway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots were in prime position to take a late lead.
Brady picked off by Joe Haden in red zone
Facing second-and-goal at the 16-yard-line, Tom Brady looked to Julian Edelman down the sideline with a pass off his back foot while facing pressure from the Pittsburgh pass rush.
Instead of Edelman, Brady found Steelers defensive back Joe Haden, who came up with a critical interception that helped secure a 17-10 victory for the Steelers.
It was a rare red-zone mistake for Brady, who hadn’t thrown an interception in that part of the field since December 2016, a span that included 180 pass attempts.
Texans control first-round bye with Patriots loss
With the loss, the Patriots fall to 9-5, ceding control of the AFC’s second seed and the first-round bye that comes with it to the 10-4 Houston Texans.
The Steelers, meanwhile, improve to 8-5-1, picking up a much-needed win to stay ahead of the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
The Steelers responded to Brady’s mistake with a 66-yard, 5-minute, 13-second drive, but couldn’t put the Patriots away, settling for a 48-yard Chris Boswell field goal to increase their lead to 17-10.
Patriots had another late shot
The score left 2:29 on the clock for Brady and the Patriots to drive 75 yards. They moved the ball quickly and efficiently, driving to the Steelers’ 11-yard line with 37 seconds remaining. But their red-zone offense failed them again.
A holding penalty on offensive lineman Shaq Mason on second-and-5 pushed the Patriots back to the 21-yard line with 22 seconds left. New England would not move the ball again as a pair of Brady passes to Rob Gronkowski and a fourth-down look to Julian Edelman in the end zone all fell incomplete.
Another offensive dud for New England
Brady completed 25-of-36 passes for 279 yards with a touchdown and that one critical interception.
It was the third 10-point effort of the season for New England, which has lost in each of those games. The Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions also held the normally potent Patriots offense in check in victories.
How the rest of the season plays out
The Patriots have winnable games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills remaining. But they’ll need help from the Texans to have a shot at regaining a top-two seed in the AFC. Houston has won 10 of 11 games and faces the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars to close the season.
The Steelers, meanwhile, snapped a three-game losing streak with the win in a game that they could not afford to lose. They remain a half-game up on the Ravens for the division lead after Baltimore beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier Sunday.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Pittsburgh with an away game against the New Orleans Saints up next before closing the season at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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