Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski made up for a nightmarish performance at Cleveland last week by reeling in three touchdowns, pushing the Patriots to a 23-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
It seemed as if the teams changed jerseys Sunday night, with the Patriots pushing around the typically hard-hitting, sure-tackling Steelers.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
• Ben Roethlisberger struggled early, while Brady looked to be in Super Bowl form as led the Patriots on two scoring drives to open the game for a 10-0 lead.
• Brady completed 10 out of 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.
• The Patriots applied pressure on Roethlisberger constantly with a four-man front throughout the first half, but he brought the Steelers within seven before the half. After the Patriots went for a fourth-and-6 play on the Steelers' 34 with 55 seconds left in the half, Brady completed an 11-yard pass to Gronkowski that was called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty.
• Bill Belichick's been an NFL head coach for 16 years, and now possesses his youngest group of defensive players -- sporting an average age of 25.5 years old.
• After a third-and-4 play with 3:34 left in the first half fell short when running back Danny Woodhead was stuffed on a 2-yard run, Brady issued a tongue-lashing to his offense. The game then turned for the better for the young Patriots as Brady performed the type of surgery on the Steelers defense that a neurosurgeon could appreciate.
• The Steelers' offense came alive in the fourth quarter and totaled 23 points, but it merely padded their stats in the end.
• Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward suffered a neck injury and was knocked out of the game late in the first quarter after banging his head against Patriots safety Patrick Chung's helmet on an attempted reception. Ward appeared to catch a 5-yard pass from Roethlisberger on the play, but it was challenged by Belichick and the call on the field was reversed, resulting in an incomplete pass. Ward had his streak of at least one reception in a game ended at 186 contests, and his presence was sorely missed when the Steelers struggled in the red zone for the first three quarters.
• Brady has 31 career games in which he's thrown for 300-plus yards. In those contests, he's 27-4.
• Gronkowski had a career-night with three touchdown catches. The rookie out of Arizona had three touchdowns through the first eight games total of his NFL career.
• Roethlisberger was sacked three times and completed 7 out of 20 passes for 79 yards in the first half. He finished 30 of 49 for 387 yards and three touchdowns.
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