PITTSBURGH — For the second consecutive week, a mistake by Tom Brady resulted in a scoreless red-zone trip for the New England Patriots.
Last week, it was the ill-advised sack he took late in the first half of a loss to the Miami Dolphins, later admitting he was not aware the Patriots were out of timeouts. On Sunday, it was a throw he made while trying to avoid a sack.
With the Patriots trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers midway through the fourth quarter, Brady lofted a rainbow of a pass in the general direction of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman while trying to avoid pressure from defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
The pass settled in the hands of cornerback Joe Haden, who leaped to snare it out of the air near the goal line and then somehow kept his feet in bounds while being dragged toward the boundary by Gronkowski and Edelman.
A touchdown in that situation would have put the Patriots ahead with less than eight minutes remaining. Instead, they left with nothing and didn’t score again in a 17-10 loss.
After the game, Brady explained what went wrong on the play. He was attempting to throw the ball out of bounds, he said, but didn’t put enough mustard on his pass.
“I was trying to throw the ball away, and I didn’t,” the 41-year-old quarterback said. “… I was just trying to flick it out of bounds. I didn’t want to take the sack. It shouldn’t happen.”
The Steelers drained more than five minutes off the clock on the ensuing drive, which culminated in a Chris Boswell field goal. New England returned to the red zone in the game’s final moments but could not conjure up the tying score.
A holding call on right guard Shaq Mason — one of a season-high 14 penalties the Patriots committed — pushed the ball from the 11-yard line back to the 21, and Brady followed with three consecutive incompletions, including one to Edelman on fourth-and-15.
The loss dropped the Patriots to 9-5 on the season — their first campaign with at least five losses since 2009. They currently sit in third place in the AFC standings, one game behind the Houston Texans with two games left to play.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” said Brady, who had not lost to the Steelers since 2011. “We have to figure out a way to do better. (We have) two important ones coming up. They won’t be easy, so we have to grind out. Tough loss.”