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Patriots Vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Defense Finally Outsmarts Tom Brady

Tight man coverage is the kryptonite to Tom Brady's Superman.

For nearly a decade, New England quarterback Tom Brady has owned the Pittsburgh Steelers so thoroughly that you might mistake him for a Rooney. In countless matchups, the three-time Super Bowl winner has made swiss cheese out of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's zone blitz scheme, finding open men sitting in holes in coverage and avoiding the PIttsburgh pass rush by getting the ball out early.

But this Sunday, LeBeau finally beat Tom Brady. The centurion defensive guru made the switch to man coverage, opting to play Brady's receivers tight and disrupt their timing at the line of scrimmage, particularly on short routes. (After all, tight end Aaron Hernandez is probably the closet thing New England has to a true deep threat.) 

The Cleveland Browns used this strategy effectively last season, as did the New York Giants in their Super Bowl upset over Brady and company. Honestly, it's shocking that it took LeBeau this long to catch on, when you think about it. Pittsburgh's coverage people limited Brady to a minuscule 5.7 yards per attempt and bottled up the Patriots' aerial weapons, most notably Wes Welker, who was on pace to set an NFL record for receiving, averaging more than 130 yards per game going into Sunday's game, but managed just six receptions for 39 yards.

Pittsburgh's defensive coaching staff and players should hold their heads high and remember what worked this Sunday. Despite Brady's (alleged) arrogance (video) when it comes to lining up against the Steelers defense, he's a mere mortal, just like the rest of us. Line up in man coverage, hit him a few times—thanks, LaMarr Woodley!—and you can beat Brady.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.