The Patriots got their first win of the 2022 season by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-14, as New England forced two turnovers that helped them pull away in the low-scoring back-and-forth affair.
Quarterback Mac Jones finished with 252 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception, as he made enough key plays to help get the win. The Pats came out throwing and put up points, then closed things off with the run as it was a complementary effort on that side of the ball.
Defensively, they made life difficult for the Steelers holding them to just 14 total points and playing their best at the end when the game was on the line.
The Pats now move to 1-1 on the season, knocking off a conference rival and finding a performance to build off of moving forward.
Here are the key takeaways from the win!
Good Start for Pats
A week after turning the ball over on their first possession of the game, the Patriots got an ideal start that helped establish an early tone. First, the defense forced a three-and-out by the Steelers offense, and then the Patriots offense responded with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that they capped off with a field goal. Just like you draw it up.
Jakobi Meyers again popped up as Mac Jones' go-to target, picking up two catches on third down that kept the drive alive. However, it wasn't all perfect, with a delay of game penalty coming inside the red zone and turning a 3rd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-18 that was not converted.
The first offensive drive showed the offense was capable of stringing together a long sustained drive at the start of the game. Mac looked more comfortable in the pocket, going 5-of-7 for 53 yards. Nelson Agholor had two catches on the drive, as the Patriots leaned into their three-receiver set in an attempt to spread the Steelers defense out, something they've often done with their gameplans in the past. It wasn't quite perfect, but it looked better out of the gate on both sides of the ball.
Take it away, give it away
The strong start continued on the defensive side of the ball on Pittsburgh's second possession. The Steelers had strung together an eight-play drive and were moving toward midfield when Mitch Trubisky's play-action pass was deflected by Mack Wilson and intercepted by Jalen Mills.
Wilson's ability in coverage has offered some compelling potential this summer. The mobile linebacker was one of the few defensive additions this offseason but showed why the team might've avoided addressing the need in the draft. Wilson started the game as well as his role appears to be expanding in Week 2 and he delivered with the tipped pass.
But the Patriots would give it right back, with Mac Jones getting picked by Minkah Fitzpatrick on the first third down that the offense faced after Mills' takeaway. For the second time in two games, Jones turned the ball over while targeting DeVante Parker downfield. Alex Highsmith delivered a solid QB hit as Jones unloaded the pass, as pressure contributed to the mistake.
The Patriots got back on the takeaway train with a special teams gift as former Patriot Gunner Olszewski's muffed punt was pounced on by Brendan Schooler. They'd cap it off with a Damien Harris touchdown that made the game 17-6.
Takeaways were a big key entering the game, as the Patriots failed to get any off the Dolphins, losing the turnover battle 3-0. This time around winning it 2-1 was enough to make the difference in the game.
Agholor breaks offense's funk
After putting together an extended drive on their first possession of the game, the offense went stagnant, producing just 13 yards on two three-and-outs. But they'd rediscover their groove on their final drive before the half, with Jones finding Nelson Agholor for a 44-yard contested catch touchdown that gave the Pats a 10-3 lead at the break.
Agholor's downfield speed is something the offense showcased frequently during the summer and while this play wasn't as wide open as some of those were, it was exactly what the offense needed at this point. The receiver finished with six catches for 110 yards with the touchdown, as he and Jakobi Meyers did the heavy lifting for the Patriots' passing game.
Agholor's growing involvement is a good sign for the offense. With DeVante Parker now occupying the outside, Agholor should have more matchup opportunities and he showed that he can also provide a downfield presence in alternative to Parker, who has now been the victim of two interceptions while targetted deep.
Defense stout, needs better 3rd downs
It was a solid day for the Patriots defense against the Trubisky-led Steelers offense, but if there was one area to improve on it would be third down, where the D allowed conversions on 8-of-15 third downs. This included a long stretch of conversions in the first half, with Pittsburgh sustaining drives of nine and 16 plays with multiple third down conversions on each.
They'd also allow their only touchdown of the game on third down, with Trubisky finding tight end Pat Freiermuth for the score.
Otherwise, the defense again had a solid day against Pittsburgh, holding them to just 14 points while picking up their first takeaway of the season. Solid tackling and stout play along the line of scrimmage were defining features of their performance, as they kept the Steelers ground game in check and made Trubisky execute multiple plays to get down the field.
Two forced three-and-outs in the fourth quarter were huge stops as the defense rectified some of their third-down issues to help seal the win. It was a good showing of clutch by the defense, rising up and playing their best with a one-score game on the line.
This has been tried and true methodology for winning football from the Pats defense and this year's edition looks like they're making some good strides through the season's second week.
Patriots do enough for first win
It wasn't a coming-out party by any means, but the Patriots did just enough to log their first win of the season. Mistakes were still rearing their ugly heads, with multiple untimely penalties and one turnover that could've easily been two or three, but on this day the Patriots were the better team.
This week the contested ball in the end zone was completed for a touchdown instead of picked off. This week it was the Steelers making the game-defining turnover in the second half. The Patriots in turn did what they often do best, take advantage of opportunities and avoid the game-breaking mistake.
New England's game-sealing drive late in the fourth quarter, sparked by a defensive stop, was the kind of clutch performance they can build off of. They showed some of that against the Raiders during joint practices and once again flashed a burgeoning ability to close out games.
17 points won't be enough to win every week, but for a team with their backs against the wall, this was just what the New England Patriots needed to get their season on track and buy continued time for their offense to develop.