It Can And It Has Been Done

Mike Prisuta talked to Steelers receiver -- and former N.Y. Jet -- Jerricho Cotchery about upsetting the New England Patriots.

The Steelers' 1-6 record against Tom Brady is well documented, and an understandable degree of frustration on the Steelers' part relative to that recent history against Brady seemed palpable this week on the South Side even as the Steelers repeatedly insisted such emotions didn't exist.

But at least one guy in the locker room doesn't have that problem. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was with the New York Football Jets last season. He caught five passes for 96 yards when the Jets beat the Patriots, 28-21.

In the playoffs.

At New England.

"The preparation was there," Cotchery remembered. "It was just a single-minded focus. We were just focusing in on that day. Not thinking about anything else, just focusing in and locking in on that day.

"Going in it was like, ‘How can they beat these guys? They didn't lose but two games in the (regular) season. They beat the Jets, 45-3, the last time they played them. Tom Brady doesn't lose in the playoffs.'

"But it wasn't about that; it was about playing that particular day."

The Steelers have a plan in mind as it relates to playing the Patriots this Sunday. The plan is to put whatever frustration may or may not exist aside and focus, focus, focus.

Their schemes will be what they usually are; they just intend to execute them better. They have some thoughts about attacking the perimeter and the secondary and - maybe, possibly, perhaps – even with the no-huddle offense.

They want to at least get in Brady's face in the event they're unable to get him on the ground, and tip passes in lieu of sacks.

They want to tackle the catch and frustrate a big-play offense that mostly pops big plays off of short throws.

They want to disguise and cover.

And they want to catch the ball on defense in the event such opportunities present themselves.

It's Football 101, mostly.

They won't be trying to re-invent the wheel.

They won't be trying to win the 2001 AFC Championship Game.

They'll be a 5-2 team trying to get to 6-2.

The plan is to perceive New England much more as the team that happens to be in the way toward that end rather than as the White Whale ("To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last my last breath at thee."). When Cotchery's Jets ended New England's postseason last season, all of the appropriate numbers added up.

The Jets outrushed the Patriots (120-113), they didn't turn the ball over (Brady was intercepted once), they were better in the red zone (New York was 4-for-5 and New England 2-for-4), and they won the fourth quarter (14-10).

The Jets also sacked Brady five times while Mark Sanchez emerged clean.

This season it's been turnovers that have kept New England mortal. Brady was picked off four times (two via the tip-pick variety) in the Patriots' loss to the Bills. And New England also turned the ball over four times (two picks, two fumbles) prior to escaping against Dallas via a last-minute touchdown.

Those are all statistical details of what Cotchery sees as a big-picture equation as it relates to beating the Patriots.

"The thing that stood out the most about that (playoff) game was guys just made plays when it was time to make plays," he said. "When you have an opportunity to make a play you just have to make the play.

"That's what it's all about."


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