Maybe it was the championship atmosphere that Red Sox players brought to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, because the Patriots finally looked like a championship contender too. New England beat Pittsburgh, 55-31, in Foxboro, the way that many fans have come to expect – by scoring lots of points. It was certainly the way the Patriots wanted to go into the bye week, with games coming up after against the Panthers and Broncos later in November.
Offense shaping into form It’s taken nine weeks, but it finally looks like the Patriots have an offense. While both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola suited up last Sunday for the Pats, they were both ineffective, combining for five catches and 42 yards with no touchdowns. Tom Brady finished with just 116 passing yards in that one. Against the Steelers, it was clear Brady was much more on-point with his receivers. Amendola made four catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, including a 57-yard catch that set up a Patriots field goal. Gronkowski finished with a team-high nine receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown (plus a Gronk spike). Aaron Dobson scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including an 81-yard bomb from Brady, who finished the day with a season-high 432 passing yards. Stevan Ridley had a great day on the ground, finishing with 115 yards and two touchdowns, but did fumble once.
Stopped the bleeding The Patriots went into halftime with a 24-10 lead after Ridley’s touchdown with just seconds left on the clock. But it was Ridley who coughed up the football on the Pats opening drive in the third quarter. That led to the first of two Ben Roethlisberger-to-Jericho Cotchery touchdowns, with the second one coming on the Steelers’ next drive. Just like that, the game was tied at 24 with 7:14 on the clock. But Belichick didn’t bench Ridley after the fumble, and the running back played a big part in the Pats finally snapping out of it. Using the no-huddle, New England marched 60 yards and kicked the go-ahead field goal. Ridley rushed five times during the drive. The Pats never looked back, scoring a whopping four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Hurtin’ unit The Patriots offense looked out of this world Sunday with the Steelers showing plenty of fire-power as well. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cotchery had their collective way with the Patriots’ defense. Cotchery scored three touchdowns on the day and finished with 96 receiving yards. Sanders had 98 receiving yards and Brown added 71. But the Pats defense – already banged up to begin with – didn’t help itself when safety Steve Gregory left the game with a thumb/hand injury, and defensive end Rob Ninkovich left the game with a foot injury.