PITTSBURGH — The New England Patriots had many, many issues in their 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but if you want to point to one in particular that caused them to drop to 9-5 on the season, it would be penalties.
The Patriots were penalized 14 times for 106 yards. They committed five false starts, three offensive holding penalties, two defensive holding penalties, one offside, a delay of game, a defensive pass interference, an ineligible man downfield on a punt and an illegal formation.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady seemed to be pleading with officials over the three holds. So, what did Brady see on those plays?
“I don’t know. I didn’t see them,” Brady said. “He said they’re trying to call those tighter. I don’t have the replay of them, so I don’t know how tight they are. Obviously, there is holding on every player in the NFL. That’s what we do. We hold. It’s just whether you get called or not. If they are calling it, then you just have to do a little bit less of it. That’s how you block. You hold. They’re holding, we’re holding.
“Sometimes they call them, sometimes they don’t. If they are calling them tight, then they’re calling them tight. I haven’t seen them. What do you guys think? Hard to say? That’s how I felt.”
The offensive line, which was a major strength for the Patriots early in the season, was to blame for six of the team’s 14 penalties. Right tackle Marcus Cannon committed a holding penalty and false start, left tackle Trent Brown had a holding penalty and false start, right guard Shaq Mason was flagged for holding and left guard Joe Thuney committed a false start.
“I don’t know what’s always to blame,” Cannon said. “I can only speak for myself, and the ones that I got, I have to have better technique and be more mentally tough.”
Thuney offered his own explanation.
“Just got to focus more,” Thuney said. “Just gotta be more detailed and lock in.”
Mason gave another vague explanation.
“Just not executing,” Mason said. “No one wants penalties. It goes on not executing our job.”
No one would blame crowd noise on the false starts.
“We play half our games on the road,” head coach Bill Belichick pointed out.
The Pittsburgh crowd didn’t seem particularly raucous from the press box.
“I mean we work on it so much,” Brady said. “I don’t think that’s surprising us. We just have to figure out how to not have those things. We will work on those.”
So what was to blame for the penalties?
“We have to do a better job,” was all Belichick would say.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman committed two penalties himself — a false start and illegal formation on consecutive plays. Edelman also was responsible for one drop, according to Pro Football Focus.
Edelman was spotted barking at an official while coming off the field after the game.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Edelman said about the penalties. “You can’t come into a hostile environment like Pittsburgh — it’s a football town, good football team, well-coached — and expect to win when you have penalties. We’ll leave it at that.”
Edelman was asked if he felt the game was called tight.
“I have no comment on how it was called,” Edelman smartly said.
After all, NFL players are fined for criticizing officials.