Snap Judgments: Patriots crush Steelers, 55-31
|11.03.13 at 7:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — That’s how you head into the bye week.
The Patriots put up 55 points — more than any team has ever scored on a Steelers defense — on the way to a 55-31 victory over Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. While it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game to defensive aficionados, it was plenty good enough for New England football fans, as the Patriots now head into their week off with a 7-2 mark.
Tom Brady ended up with season highs in several categories — he finished 23-for-33 for 432 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his fifth career 400-yard game. Stevan Ridley had a banner afternoon — against one of the worst run defenses in the league, he accumulated 115 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. (The Patriots are now 6-0 when they top 100 yards rushing.) In addition, Rob Gronkowski had 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, Aaron Dobson had nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns and Danny Amendola ended up with four catches for 122 yards.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Steelers were led by Ben Roethlisberger, who went 28-for-48 for 400 yards for four touchdowns and two interceptions. Emmanuel Sanders — the receiver who nearly became a Patriot after New England signed him to an offer sheet, only to see him return to Pittsburgh — ended up with 11 catches for 98 yards.
Here are a few notes on how things went down:
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS
‘¢ In many aspects, this game was as close to a complete Brady performance as we’ve seen over the first half of the season. It was the first time all year he threw at least three touchdown passes, and he was in sync throughout the afternoon with Gronkowski and Amendola, both of whom were able to pick up chunks of yardage on their pass plays. (Amendola had a pair of receptions in the first half — including one that went for a touchdown — where he was so astoundingly open it appeared he might have started the play offsides to get a head start on the defense.)
‘¢ Gronkowski was an unstoppable beast in the first half. Through the first two quarters, he had seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, including receptions of 34 and 27 yards. He took a direct shot to what appeared to be his thigh in the second half and was limited down the stretch as a result, but he was extremely important to the success of the passing game early on.
‘¢ Ridley topped the 100-yard mark for the first time all season, rumbling between the tackles for most of the afternoon and piling up good yardage throughout the afternoon. His first touchdown came at the end of the second quarter on a 1-yard run that made it 24-10 just before halftime. And with the Steelers threatening in the second half, he capped off another impressive drive when he burst in from five yards out to make it 41-24 roughly midway through the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS
‘¢ The third quarter woes that bedeviled the Patriots (prior to last week’s win over the Dolphins) returned, as New England was dominated for the majority of the third quarter. The Patriots went into the half with what appeared to be a comfortable 24-10 lead, but a pair of Pittsburgh touchdowns — combined with an inability of the Patriots to move the ball consistently in the third — left New England clinging to a 27-24 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. The Patriots were able to shut the door down the stretch, but they need to be more consistent with their third-quarter performances going forward.
‘¢ Wide receiver Austin Collie suffered a knee injury, and the team announced early in the third quarter he was done for the day. In addition, linebacker/defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich suffered some sort of foot injury — apparently at the start of the second half. It was announced midway through the third quarter that he was questionable to return. Safety Steve Gregory left with a thumb injury in the third quarter and didn’t return, while Gronkowski took a shot in the second half to his thigh, and he was extremely limited down the stretch.
‘¢ The Patriots cannot find a way to slow down Jerricho Cotchery. The tight end — who was able to torture New England on a regular basis when he was with the Jets — was up to his old tricks again Sunday as a member of the Steelers. He caught three touchdown passes, and was a general pain in the ass all afternoon.