For the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Sunday at Heinz Field, it’s obvious that several things must go right.
As we have seen in the past, the best way to beat a Brady-led Patriots team is to keep the quarterback off the field as much as possible. To accomplish that with Landry Jones starting for the Steelers at quarterback on Sunday, the Steelers offense must be able to run the football and win the time of possession battle.
I have been examining Brady’s 51 career regular season losses all week and today we’ll look at not only how long opposing teams have possessed the football in those games, but also how successful those teams were at running the football.
For starters, Brady has only lost 16 regular season games that he started when the Patriots have won the time of possession battle. On average, the teams who have beaten Brady have had an ending time of possession of 32:45. I should point out, however, that that average time includes four games that went into overtime. In other words, holding onto the football for at least 32 minutes on Sunday should be the goal for the Steelers offense.
So, what about running back Le’Veon Bell? How many rushing yards will he likely need to give the Steelers a legitimate chance of beating the Patriots?
In Brady’s 51 regular season losses so far during his career, the teams that have beaten him have, on average, rushed 32.7 times for 133 yards and that equates to a 4.08 yards per carry average. Bell’s career high for rushing attempts in a single game is 33, so I think it’s easy to speculate that he’ll have to do more on less carries, in addition to getting fed the ball out of the backfield as part of the passing game.
With DeAngelo Williams set to miss Sunday’s game, Fitzgerald Toussaint might wind up getting a carry or three against the Patriots. If you include a few hopeful kneel-downs, a quarterback scramble or two, and one end-around play-call, Bell ought to be able to carry the football 25 times against the Patriots, assuming the score stays close. What he does with those 20-plus touches will be huge in determining the outcome of the time of possession battle and probably the game.
So far during his career, Bell has topped 100 yards rushing in a single game just 9 times. He’ll need to top the century mark a tenth time on Sunday to help keep Brady off the field and give the Steelers a chance to win the game.
Opposition’s Rushing Stats & ToP In Tom Brady’s 51 Losses