Joe Haden was the hero a week ago, coming down with a crucial interception of Tom Brady in the red zone during the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 17-10 victory over the New England Patriots in a one-score game. He elevated between two offensive players and deadened his legs on the comedown to stay inbounds.
During the week leading up to yesterday’s game, he talked about how Drew Brees was another name on the list of quarterbacks he wants to get an interception from. He didn’t get an interception, but he did draw some absolutely huge defensive pass interference penalties that had a major impact on how the game unfolded.
In the first quarter, with the New Orleans Saints on the Steelers’ 34-yard line and facing a fourth and one, Brees heaved a pass downfield to running back Alvin Kamara. Haden was in coverage on him and gave a slight pushoff that was flagged in the end zone, giving the Saints first and goal at the one. They scored on the next play to take a 7-3 lead, when it otherwise would have given the Steelers the ball on their own 34.
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On the Saints’ game-winning drive, they faced another critical sequence, fourth and two from the 26. Brees targeted Michael Thomas on a short pass that Haden was able to get a hand on to knock down, but he got there a bit early. Stephon Tuitt might have tipped the pass, which would have negated the penalty, but the booth chose not to review that (it is reviewable).
Haden was not happy with the calls after the game. He used some colorful language to describe his frustration in the locker room to reporters, and added, “next time I’ll try to make those plays without getting the call”.
Haden’s wasn’t the only big pass interference against the Steelers, as Morgan Burnett had another in the first half that led to another Saints touchdown. New Orleans had two calls go against them, both on Eli Apple, the newcomer in their secondary.
“You can’t touch these guys”, the nine-year veteran lamented of how the game is officiated in favor of the receivers today. “They can push off, and they didn’t say anything about Michael pushing me off in the end zone”.
Haden is referring to the game-winning score that ended the drive on which he second penalty game. Thomas caught the ball right at the goal line on second and goal from the two, but he clearly used his hand to gain separation.
“It’s tough being a defensive back, but we have to live”, he went on. “That’s what we do. It sucks when those plays are so big and weighted differently and can make or break you”. He added later that he felt “those were bad calls”.