So it may have taken nine weeks, but the New England Patriots that we know and love finally showed up to play on Sunday. And play and play and play. They did something to the Pittsburgh Steelers that's never been done before: they scored 55 points—the most ever scored against the black and gold.
There has been speculation since last week's game against Miami that Tom Brady was battling some sort of hand injury. If he is, that makes today's performance that much more impressive. Brady was 23-for-33 for 432 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was Brady's 3rd career 400-yard game and now with a career total of 47,062 passing yards, his passes Fran Tarkenton for 7th in NFL history. It was also his 37th career game with 3+ TD passes and no interceptions, passing Brett Favre for second most all-time and trailing only Peyton Manning (41). And it was Brady's 15th career game with 4+ TD passes and no interceptions—most all-time. [All stats from NFL.com.]
The Patriots collected 610 net total yards against the Steelers—413 passing and 197 rushing. It was a well-balanced, well-played game where Stevan Ridley gained 115 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, his first +100 yard game of this season. And Gronk showed why he was missed so much catching nine balls for 143 yards and one touchdown.
Aaron Dobson, the 22-year-old rookie was rather impressive today also. He caught five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. One of those TDs came on a magnificent 81-yard TD pass from Brady in the fourth quarter. Danny Amendola also had a touchdown and hauled in four passes for 122 yards—his longest was 57 yards.
Even though the Steelers haven't been very good this season, there's no doubt in my mind that, given the way the Pats have played at times over the first eight games, this game could've been ugly... and not in a way that benefited New England. But it didn't and Tom Brady and the rest of the team really stepped up and took the bull by the horns. If I had one complaint it would be the number of points they gave up those pesky Steelers.
Next Sunday is a bye week for the Patriots and I'm sure this banged up team is happy for the break. Although I'm not happy I won't get to watch them. Next up is a Monday Night Football matchup @Carolina on the 18th.