Tom Brady lights up Steelers defense
Now that looked like the real Tom Brady.
The two-time NFL MVP had his best game of an inconsistent season and the New England Patriots used one of the best offensive performances in their history to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 55-31 on Sunday.
Brady threw for season highs of 432 yards and four touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski had a career-high nine receptions.
The 55 points were the most scored in an NFL game this season and the most ever scored against the Steelers (2-6).
Brady had 252 yards passing in the first half, more than he had in five of his other eight games for New England (7-2).
And 119 of those came on seven catches by Gronkowski in his third game since missing the first six recovering from surgeries on his left forearm and back.
The star tight end caught his first touchdown of the season, a 19-yarder, as the Patriots took a 14-0 lead with 4:30 gone in the second quarter.
New England piled up 610 yards, third most in team history. Pittsburgh wasted a solid performance by Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
Until Sunday, Brady had been having a mediocre season.
In fact, he threw for just 116 yards a week earlier in a 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Part of the problem was communication with his rookie receivers and the absence of Gronkowski. Brady also was uncharacteristically inaccurate on his throws.
But he was sharp all day, completing 23 of 33 passes against a defense that let receivers run free for several long receptions, including a 57-yarder to Danny Amendola that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 20-yard field goal that made it 17-3.
Brady threw scoring passes of 34 yards to Amendola, and 17 and 81 yards to Aaron Dobson, while Stevan Ridley rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots led 24-10 at halftime before the Steelers tied it on their first two series of the third quarter on Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes to Jerricho Cotchery of 20 and 8 yards.
He added a 6-yarder to Cotchery midway through the fourth quarter that made it 41-31. But two plays after the kickoff, Brady launched a pass down the left sideline that Dobson caught at the Steelers 40 and carried into the end zone.
LeGarrette Blount got the final touchdown on a 5-yard run with 2:41 left.
Three Patriots had more than 100 yards receiving, Gronkowski with 143, Dobson with 130 and Amendola with 122.
New England scored on its last four possessions of the first half and led 24-10 at intermission before the Steelers tied it.
Roethlisberger turned the ball over twice on his first two series when he fumbled then threw an interception to Devin McCourty that led to Brady’s scoring pass to Amendola.
After Gronkowski’s touchdown, Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham and Gostkowski traded field goals before Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 27-yard touchdown. It was the 200th touchdown pass of Roethlisberger’s career, second in Steelers history to Terry Bradshaw with 212.
The Patriots got the ball back with 1:50 left in the half and went 77 yards on nine plays to a 1-yard scoring run by Ridley. On the previous play, Shamarko Thomas was called for interfering with Gronkowski in the end zone.
After Cotchery tied it at 24, the Patriots took the lead for good on Gostkowski’s 32-yard field goal.