Grading out the Patriots in the epic 27-24 victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Brady threw an interception for the fourth straight game and his numbers did not overwhelm Sunday (22-of-35 for 298 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 87.6 passer rating). But the Pats’ final offensive drive may have clinched the MVP award for No. 12. The Pats started the drive, down five, from their own 23-yard line and 70 seconds later the game was tied.
Gronk has had dozens of great performances since being drafted by Pats in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but Sunday’s showing in Pittsburgh was his finest hour. Brady threw the ball five times on that final drive and each time it was in the direction of Gronk. The burly tight end finished the game with a season-best 168 yards receiving on nine catches. He also caught the two-point conversion that put the Pats up a field goal.
Lewis was unspectacular yet solid against the Steelers, finishing with 67 yards on 13 carries. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown on an eight-yard rush. The Pats rushed for just 77 yards total, and will need to get more production from their backs in the final two weeks of the regular season and in the playoffs.
Cooks was the Pats’ second-leading receiver in the game behind Gronk and scored the Pats’ first points of the second half on a four-yard TD pass from Brady. He was targeted seven times and caught four balls for 60 yards. Coming off a 38-yard receiving day in the loss to Miami and a 17-yard receiving day against the Bills, Cooks looked better Sunday.
Gostkowski banged home the only two field goals he attempted, one from 32 yards in the second quarter and the other from 46 yards in the fourth. But he also missed an extra point in the third quarter, which would have tied the game at 17 had it been good. Long gone are the days where you can trust Gostkowski to be perfect in a big game. In the back of every Patriots fans’ mind is the missed extra point that cost the team a trip to the Super Bowl two years ago in Denver. At this stage in his career, Gostkowski is just an average kicker.
Rowe had quite an eventful afternoon, particularly late in the game. He was burned by Pittsburgh rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster for 69 yards with under a minute left, which gave Pittsburgh new life. But Rowe quickly made up for it, making the biggest play of the season for the Pats – a tipped ball in the end zone which wound up in the hands of Duron Harmon for the game-clinching interception.
Butler began the game covering Antonio Brown, who had a pair of catches early before leaving due to injury. Even with Brown gone, the Pats secondary struggled as Ben Roethlisberger was an efficient 22-of-30 for 281 yards, two TDs and one interception. Roethlisberger had a 110.6 passer rating on the day.
Gilmore could not keep pace with Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant, who had four catches on six targets for 59 yards and a touchdown.