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Brady leads Patriots over Steelers 39-26

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Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes--all to tight end Rob Gronkowski of Woodland Hills High School--and added a rushing TD of his own as the Patriots handled the Steelers 39-26 in Pittsburgh. Brady has won six of seven overall against the Steelers and four of five at Heinz Field.

Patriots 39 - Steelers 26

Pittsburgh’s defense had no answer for Tom Brady and rookie TE Rob Gronkowski, a pair that hooked up for three touchdowns in an all-around meltdown by the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was pressured all night, Jeff Reed was off the mark again, and the defense failed to register a sack as it set the mark for most points allowed in the Mike Tomlin era.

GAME FLOW

After an opening three-and-out by Pittsburgh, New England chipped its way down the field, eventually capitalizing on a 19-yard strike from QB Tom Brady to TE Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots tacked on a field goal on their second drive to take a 10-0 lead out of the gate. New England’s pass rush was dominant early, sacking QB Ben Roethlisberger three times on the first three drives. Midway through the second quarter, Pittsburgh finally drove into the redzone only to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. The Patriots took the 10-3 lead into halftime.

New England’s first drive in the second half looked a lot like its first drive of the game. Brady methodically passed his way down the field before finding Gronkowski again, this time for a nine-yard score. Pittsburgh tried to respond later in the quarter, once again driving into the redzone. However, the offense failed to score a touchdown and came up completely empty after Jeff Reed missed a 26-yard field goal. Two plays later, Brady gashed the Steelers defense with a 45-yard pass to WR Brandon Tate. Brady finished the drive himself, scoring on a three-yard QB keeper to put New England up 23-3.

Roethlisberger and the offense finally got on the board with a six-yard touchdown pass to WR Emmanuel Sanders. A big defensive stop with 12 minutes left in the game provided faint hope of a comeback, but a pick-six by New England safety James Sanders put a dagger in the hearts of Steeler Nation. WR Mike Wallace caught his first touchdown of the game on the next drive, on a 15-yard throw from Roethlisberger, before Gronkowski completed the hat trick, scoring his third touchdown of the day from 25-yards out. A second touchdown by Wallace (33 yards) and a 36-yard field goal by New England kicked Shayne Graham were the final scores of the game.

OFFENSE

On the ground:
The early deficit took the ball out of Rashard Mendenhall’s hands as he only received 11 carries for 50 yards, including a 34-yard rush in the second half. Mewelde Moore saw significant action in the backfield but only carried the ball four times for 14 yards. Roethlisberger added one 12-yard scramble that resulted in a first down.

Through the air: The passing offense’s numbers were a bit inflated by some garbage-time production in the fourth quarter as the Steelers tried to pass back into contention. Roethlisberger completed 30 of his 49 attempts for 387 yards, though 281 of those yards came after New England took a 20-point lead late in the third quarter. Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter, but also threw a pick-six late in the game. Mike Wallace was the main target late, pulling down eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Antwaan Randle El, Heath Miller, and rookie Emmanuel Sanders all had five catches with Sanders scoring a touchdown. RB Mewelde Moore was second on the team with 79 yards on five catches of his own. WR Hines Ward left the game with a concussion and did not register a catch for the first time in 186 games.

DEFENSE

What can you say about a defense that gave up 39 points and 453 yards of offense? The rushing defense gave up 103 yards, 87 by RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the first time a team has cracked the 100-yard mark all season. New England’s passing offense exploded for 350 yards. Pittsburgh failed to register a sack and left the game with zero turnovers. CB Bryant McFadden, who was picked on in parts of the game, tied LB James Harrison for the team lead in tackles with nine.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jeff Reed hit a 22-yard field goal, but missed for 26 yards out and was lacking in kickoff distance. Daniel Sepulveda averaged 45.2 yards on five punts. Emmanuel Sanders was busy as a return man, averaging 26 yards on six kickoffs and eleven yards on two punt returns.

GAME BALL

Overall, it’s a shared award between Brady and Woodland Hills HS Alumnus Rob Gronkowski. For the Steelers, Mewelde Moore was quietly solid and mostly mistake-free. In a game as ugly as this one, quietly solid and mistake-free is worthy of a game ball.

NEXT UP

Pittsburgh looks to bounce back against a 5-4 Oakland Raiders franchise that is coming off its bye week while boasting wins in four of its last five games. The Steelers return to the 1:00 time slot after three straight primetime contests. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

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