PITTSBURGH -- Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, met with his home-state New England Patriots following their 27-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
It was a win largely made possible by the Patriots' secretary of defense for the game, cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Butler cut in front of star Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to make an interception in the end zone on Pittsburgh's second possession of the game. The Patriots (6-1) took advantage by immediately driving 80 yards to score, with Tom Brady's 19-yard scoring pass to running back James White finishing off the first of successive long New England touchdown drives.
"Malcolm's interception was a big play for us. He was on (Brown) a lot, the way we set it up," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They have great players and they're tough to cover."
Brown made seven catches for 106 yards but was kept out of the end zone. He still doesn't have an NFL touchdown pass that wasn't thrown by Ben Roethlisberger, who sat out the game due to a knee injury.
Asked how he made the interception, Butler said, "(I) turn around and find the ball, (I'm) just playing football. I just made the play, that's all there was to it."
He also mimicked Brown by copying one of his signature end-zone dances, causing Brown to smile despite having a potential TD catch taken away from him.
"Me and AB had conversations, and once I showed him how I did it (mimicked Brown's dance), I did it in a game," Butler said.
--The Steelers (4-3) go into their bye week with two consecutive losses and a lot of injuries, including those to Roethlisberger, who could be out another month, and defensive captain Cam Heyward (hamstring).
"We definitely do (need to get healthy)," running back Le'Veon Bell said. "Obviously, we want all of our players, but we don't look at it like that. We don't seek any comfort. We can go out there and win with the players we have out there."
--Once-automatic Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a second extra point attempt of the season -- until a season ago, he made 523 in a row -- to go with an uncharacteristic three missed field-goal attempts on the year. And it is obviously weighing on him.
"It's kind of piling on right now; at my position you only get so many opportunities, and that's what's hard on you mentally," Gostkowski said. "Right now, I just stink, and I need to know how to get better. It's just not working out and things keep piling on, but I'm going to hold my head high and keep working hard."
--A Pittsburgh defense that, until a few years ago, averaged about one 100-yard rushing yard game allowed per season now has given up a 204-yard game (by the Dolphins' Jay Ajayi) and a 127-yard game (by the Patriots' LeGarrette Blount) in successive weeks.
"I'm not concerned about the last two weeks," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I'm concerned about what just transpired (the loss to New England). We acknowledge schematically that we were willing to bleed a little bit in the run game in an effort to minimize big plays."
--Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, who never played in his first two NFL seasons, now is 1-2 as a replacement starter for Roethlisberger. Against the Patriots, he couldn't repeat his upset win over the Arizona Cardinals a year ago while replacing an injured Roethlisberger. Against New England, he completed 29 of 47 passes for 281 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Before the Sunday game, he told his teammates to relax and not panic because he was starting.
"I think he was very confident. ... He was making some plays," left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said. "I think he didn't get the full support from the rest of the offense as a group. ... As an offense, we could have done a lot more to help him out."