What mistakes did the Patriots commit? After several dropped passes, a missed field goal, a turnover on special teams, two fumbles caused by terrible pass protection, and some bad defense, it didn't take long before Cassel found himself having to throw on every play.
Final Stat line: 19-39, 169 YDS, 0 TD, 2 INT
1st quarter – 10:23 - 1st-and-10
It's always nice when you see a young quarterback go through his progressions, make the right decision and follow it up with a perfect throw down the field. That's exactly what Cassel does here, hitting Randy Moss in stride for 27 yards down the right sideline.
After a short drop, Cassel looks at his short options, who are all covered. Then he sets his feet and throws accurately with good velocity. Ike Taylor is trailing Moss and has no chance at the ball, and neither does closing safety Troy Polamalu. Making the throw even more impressive was the fact Cassel had a defensive lineman right in his face – he manages to release the ball at a high enough point that there's no chance of a knockdown.
1st quarter – 1:31 - 1st-and-10
There's something to be said for holding the ball in order to connect on a long play. Lined up in five wide, it would have been easy for Cassel to try and get rid of the football or scramble in order to avoid a sack, but he kept his eyes down the field and looked for Randy Moss.
But first he goes through his short progressions on both sides of the field. They're all covered so Cassel avoids a rusher, and runs up in the pocket, throwing with less-than-perfect form deep down the middle. Despite the fact his feet weren't set, Cassel hits Moss right in the hands with a 30-yard throw. Unfortunately, Moss drops it.
2nd quarter – 11:05 – 2nd-and-7
Beating tight coverage is impressive regardless of whether or not the ball is thrown long or short. On this play, Cassel's pinpoint accuracy makes the play for Kevin Faulk, who takes a short pass and turns it into a first down.
Cassel fought through wet conditions against Pittsburgh.
Elsa - Getty
4th quarter – 9:30 – 3rd-and-13
Interceptions look bad in the box score, but sometimes they come from beautiful throws. That's the case on this play. Needing a long completion for a first down, and trailing by 13 points, Cassel steps up and delivers a strike, only to see his receiver flub the play.
The pass is intended for Benjamin Watson, who is running right down the seam. He is well covered by James Harrison but Cassel throws the ball slightly high, where only Watson can make a leaping grab at it. The ball skips off his hands and into the arms of Troy Polamalu, unfortunately.
1st quarter – 12:46- 1st-and-10
After a turnover deep in Steelers territory, the Patriots have a chance to take a quick lead and go right to the air. Matt Cassel blows it, unfortunately. He has tight end Benjamin Watson open on a corner route, but misses him badly in the left corner of the end zone. The ball is uncatchable.
Not only did Watson have Ryan Clark beaten by a step or two, Kevin Faulk and Dave Thomas were also wide open. This is a play of missed opportunities for Cassel, but fortunately it doesn't hurt the Patriots, who score a touchdown a few plays later.
1st quarter – 9:20 – 2nd-and-7
Against a defense as good as Pittsburgh's, you have to take advantage of big opportunities and that's what Cassel fails to do here. He holds the ball a beat too long, and it costs the Patriots a chance at a huge play down the field – at least 20 yards.
Jabar Gaffney is wide open down the left seam but the late delivery of the ball - due to Cassel's hesitation - enables William Gay to make a play on the ball, and it is almost intercepted. Even if Gay had not closed on the pass, Gaffney likely would have taken a huge shot from Ryan Clark. A missed opportunity for the Patriots, who could have gone up by two scores early.
New England's offensive line didn't give Cassel much help.
Winslow Townson - AP
Either Cassel again held the ball a beat too long, or his arm just isn't strong enough to make this next throw. Either way, it was almost intercepted by Troy Polamlu, and a golden chance for the Patriots to end up in first-and-goal was snuffed out.
New England goes five-wide on this play and Cassel's pass is intended for Dave Thomas, who appears to run a vertical route right down the seam. Because the ball appears to be thrown too late and doesn't have enough velocity to compensate, Polamalu has a chance to undercut the throw.
Cassel also appears to throw the ball slightly behind Thomas, who has to reach back for it in a feeble attempt to haul it in. This missed opportunity may have cost the Patriots a touchdown as their drive never got inside the 10-yard line and they had to settle for a field goal.
2nd quarter – 0:35 – 1st-and-Goal
Sometimes you just make a horrible, horrible throw. That's all this play can be chalked up to, because Cassel simply flat misses Randy Moss, terribly. It costs the Patriots a touchdown, and winds up costing them any sort of lead at all going into halftime.
Moss has Ike Taylor beaten clean off the line and has a step on him as he runs through the back of the end zone. All Cassel has to do is lead him a bit and hope Randy doesn't drop the ball. But he throws the ball so far behind Moss, it's actually behind Taylor, too! It was an easy six points, but when the Patriots miss a field goal two players later, it's zero points.
2nd quarter – 0:26 – 3rd-and-Goal
Being athletic can get a quarterback into trouble, as Jake Plummer showed us so many times throughout his career. Fearing oncoming rushers, Cassel sprints to his right almost immediately on this play despite the fact that the Patriots had enough men in protection to pick up Pittsburgh's blitz. Then he really screws up.
Cassel is locked on Moss who comes open for a split second in the end zone. But because he ran to his right, Cassel has to throw back across his body to get the ball to Moss, and he simply doesn't have the arm strength to do that without risking an interception. Fortunately Ike Taylor drops it.
4th quarter – 3:47 – 1st-and-10
There's no excuses here. With the Patriots desperately trying for a score to cut a 16-point deficit in half, Cassel throws the ball behind Kevin Faulk. It is easily intercepted by Lawrence Timmons, who runs the ball back to the opposing goal line.
This was the same throw Cassel completed early in the game – a short out to his running back coming out of the backfield. It's not as if he stared down his receiver or threw it with poor mechanics, he just tosses it in a poor location this time. The game is over. Matt Cassel will have better days. So will the rest of his team.
Previous Cassel Chronicles:
Patriots vs Jets
Patriots vs Dolphins