As the New England Patriots head into the half of their Week 15 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers, trailing 17-10, here are some thoughts from the first half of play: 

Coming Out Swinging- After  playing at a slow and rather disinterested pace through most of last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots came out swinging early. Following a defensive start to open the game, the offense took the ball 77 yards down the field on six plays for a score. The quick start signaled a return to their old form.

Tied After 1 Quarter- Following New England's early score, the Steelers put together a successful second drive, to knot the score up at seven apiece. The two teams played to that 7-7 tie, after a full quarter. It was a perfect example of the tough, close game many expected to see in the game.

Brady's Hot Start- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got off to a hot start, in the first half, as he completed his first eight pass attempts for 113 yards. Over the first two quarters, Brady was a strong 10-13 for 132 yards. His biggest problem was just getting the chance to be on the field, as the Steelers controlled the time of possession. If he can stay hot in the second half and get more time on the field, the Pats can get right back into the game.

AB Knocked Out- Steelers top wide out Antonio Brown was knocked out of the game, after suffering a brutal hit to his leg in the end zone in the second quarter. Brown is officially listed as questionable to return with a calf injury, but didn't return in the first half. His absence could change the tides of this game, as it moves to the second half.

A dominant Drive- With the game tied at 10, nine minutes left on the clock and Brown in the locker room, the Steelers put together the drive of the first half. Pittsburgh proceeded to move the ball 78 yards down the field on 15 plays, taking up 8:39 of game time and finishing it off with a touchdown to take a 7-point lead. Pittsburgh was dominant on the drive, operating without it's top option, but picking up big plays on third down repeatedly. Over the 15 plays, the Steelers converted on four third down attempts, including a third and goal, one-handed catch from receiver Martavis Bryant that capped the drive with a score. Not only did the drive end successfully in the end zone, but more importantly, Pittsburgh kept the Patriot offense off the field throughout the final 9 minutes of play. The best way to avoid getting hurt by Brady is to not give him the chance to do so.

Winning On 3rd Down & TOP- The two main reasons why the Steelers enter the break with the lead are that they have converted on third down and have dominated time of possession. Over the first two quarters of play, Pittsburgh held the ball almost nine full minutes more than New England and converted on seven of nine third down attempts. The Patriot defense will have to figure some things out in the second half and make a few stops, if they want to give their offense a chance to win this game.



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