Final: New England 28, Pittsburgh 21
It was an entertaining opening night in rainy Foxboro on Thursday as Tom Brady and the Patriots vanquished the Steelers in front of a sellout crowd. Highlighting the night was three Rob Gronkowski touchdowns as the big tight end out of Arizona continued his dominance against Pittsburgh. Gronk has three career hat-tricks, and two of them have come against the black and yellow (with his first occurring in 2010). Brady also hooked up with Scott Chandler for his fourth touchdown. New England did not turn the ball over and were fairly efficient on offense. Julian Edelman pitched in with eleven catches for 97 yards as well.
Defensively, the Patriots did not look all too stellar as they surrendered 464 yards. Dont’a Hightower was probably the most impressive player under Matt Patricia’s tutelage, though, as he was able to bring down Roethlisberger once and he recorded an additional five solo tackles. The big match-up of the night was Malcolm Butler against Antonio Brown. While Butler did have his fair share of good coverage, the fifth year pro did school him for much of the night, racking up 133 yards on nine catches with a touchdown.
For Pittsburgh, they may feel down having dropped the game, but they did look good on offense. DeAngelo Williams rumbled for 127 yards on 21 carries. The team had a lot of success running draws or outside rushing plays. The 32 year old vet showed great patience and was able to exploit some pretty lax defensive line play by New England. Roethlisberger was solid, making a few beautiful throws down the field to some open receivers, but his one bone-head interception was a killer late in the fourth quarter.
On defense for the Steelers, nobody was all that good outside of Ryan Shazier. The second year pro out of Ohio State flashed, showing some solid open-field tackling and explosiveness at the line of scrimmage. The secondary had almost no answer for Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman though. Dion Lewis was also utilized well by the Patriots as he contributed in both the pass and run game. All night long, the Pittsburgh “D” looked out of sorts and confused. As a result, Tom Brady embarrassed them on the big stage.
All and all, the Patriots pick up a nice win, but this was a game that the Steelers could have made much more interesting. Two missed field goals by Josh Scobee, getting stuffed at the goal-line in the third quarter, and a near-miss on a touchdown throw to Darrius Heyward-Bay at the end of the first half all served as huge deterrents towards Pittsburgh in this contest. They were able to force a Dion Lewis fumble in the third quarter, but could not recover it. Clearly, the opportunities were there for the road team, they just failed to capitalize on them. The Patriots, as they always seem to do, were able to take full advantage of some defensive errors and pull off a satisfying first win of the year.
- Rob Gronkowski scores three touchdowns in another dominant performance against Pittsburgh (for the second time in his career)
- Antonio Brown extends his NFL record of consecutive games with five or more receptions to 33 games
- Julian Edelman ate the Steelers zone defense alive by hauling in eleven passes
- DeAngelo Williams played very well in place of Le’Veon Bell as he showed no signs of slowing down at the age of 32
- Tom Brady completed 19 straight passes at one point in this game; a franchise record for New England
- This Pittsburgh secondary needs a lot of work as they were caught out of sorts and off guard all night, blowing a ton of coverages in the process
- Josh Scobee missed two field goals, largely accounting for the difference in this game