Balanced Patriots ride Brady, Blount past Steelers

*The New England Patriots (6-1) encountered little resistance from the Big Ben-less Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3), grinding out a 27-16 win at Heinz Field, thanks to two touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount. *

  1. Business as usual from Tom Brady. The stats won't show it (222 yards, two TDs), but the Patriots quarterback dominated and outsmarted the Steelers' defense, especially in the second half. Encountering little to no pressure from the front four, Brady opted often for sure routes from receivers in the flat until Rob Gronkowski found room to run late in the second half. Through three games, Brady has yet to throw an interception since returning from suspension and has shown no hint of a decline.

But Brady didn't lead New England all by his lonesome; LeGarrette Blount happily carried the load. The former Steelers running back returned to the team that once cut him and outperformed his rival back, Le'Veon Bell. Blount continued a career year with his third 100-plus rushing yard game of 2016 and scored two touchdowns at the goal line. Blount now has more touchdowns through seven weeks (8) than he's had in any season in his career. 

  1. Little was expected of Landry Jones on Sunday afternoon, but the Steelers backup quarterback did all he could in place of Ben Roethlisberger to keep Pittsburgh in this game. Aside from an early interception on a forced pass toward Antonio Brown (seven catches for 106 yards), Jones was accurate and decisive in his reads and connected on one particularly special toss to Darrius Heyward-Bey for a touchdown. Save for Bell, who earned 31 total touches and went over 100 scrimmage yards yet again, Jones failed to develop chemistry with any other receivers, which hampered his ability to lead a comeback in the second half. Against lesser opponents, Jones will serve as a suitable replacement for Big Ben.
  1. Mike Tomlin's coaching decisions in the fourth quarter were questionable. Down 11 points and playing with house money thanks to a Pats punt return fumble, Tomlin opted to kick a 53-yard field goal on a fourth-and-3 from New England's 36 instead of attempt a short conversion. Chris Boswell, who had missed a FG earlier, shanked the kick wide right -- the Patriots didn't even attempt to block the try. One drive later, Pittsburgh opted to punt from its own 17 while trailing by the same deficit with just 5:29 remaining, punting the game away in more ways than one. Tomlin's conservative approach inspired little in the crowd and won't win him any favors in the locker room.
  1. How do you slow down Brady and the Patriots' offense? Drop everyone back. Pittsburgh abandoned the pass rush in the first half, rarely rushing more than four linemen in an attempt to account for New England's bevy of pass catchers. The Pats' tight ends were held mostly in check, and Brady eschewed deep balls to Chris Hogan for short crossing routes to Julian Edelman. Missing Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh even gave up on blitzing on third downs. The result? Brady extended long drives with three third-and-shorts with his legs. Of course, the Steelers' bend-but-don't-break approach lasted only so long.
  1. Hard as they tried, Pittsburgh couldn't stifle Rob Gronkowski for long. After holding the tight end to one catch in the first half, the Steelers' cornerbacks lost track of Gronk, letting him roam free on two 30-plus-yard routes in the middle of the field, one of which went for six. The tight end's 68th touchdown was historic too, as it tied him with Stanley Morgan for most in franchise history.
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