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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Patriots Come Up With an Old-Fashioned Ass Whooping of the Steelers

Blowout wins like today for the Patriots have been few and far between the last few seasons which reminds us how good we had it for the better part of a decade. New England (7-2 overall, 5-0 home) went into their bye week in style with a 55-31 win over Pittsburgh (2-6 overall, 1-4 away) at Gillette Stadium. The 55 points were the most allowed by the Steelers in franchise history, can you say dumpster fire?

The Patriots' defense has carried the team most of this season so it was nice to see the offense return the favor in this game. Tom Brady (23 of 33 for 432 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) had a vintage performance as Rob Gronkowski (9 catches, 143 yards, 1 TD), Aaron Dobson (5 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs) and Danny Amendola (4 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD) became only the six trio of teammates to all go over 100+ receiving yards in one game. KenBrell Thompkins was a surprise inactive but that didn't matter by the time this was over.

Stevan Ridley (26 carries, 115 yards, 2 TDs) had an early fumble, mostly a great play by Troy Polamalu to knock it loose, but instead of stapling him to the bench Bill Belichick tried to build his confidence by sticking with him. What a concept! New England's most talented running back responded with a great game which hopefully will propel him into a much better second half.

You won't see any sympathy here for scummy Ben Roethlisberger (28 of 48 for 400 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) or his hapless squad. Pittsburgh is a proud franchise that's almost always solid so it is surprising to see them fall so low this fast. With so many injuries and a lack of gamebreakers/young talent, they could be in trouble for a while (relatively speaking).

The funny thing about this offensive explosion is that nobody could have seen it coming after the Pats only led 7-0 following Amendola's 34-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Gronk caught a 19-yard touchdown (he's starting to look like himself again) for a 14-0 lead in the second quarter before Shaun Suisham kicked a 30-yard field goal. Stephen Gostkowski's 20-yard field goal restored New England's two touchdown lead (17-3). Antonio Brown's 24-yard touchdown cut it to 17-10 late first half but Ridley's 1-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the second quarter was huge.

Jericho Cotchery (7 catches, 96 yards) played like it was 2009 with the Jets in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown catches (20 and 8) that tied it up. Luckily for New England, they still managed to forge ahead on Gostkowski's 27-yard field goal with 2:39 left in the third quarter setting the stage for a beatdown in the fourth (28-7).

Dobson started it off with a pretty 17-yard back shoulder touchdown catch. Ridley's five-yard touchdown run made it 41-24 before Cotchery had one more touchdown grab, from five yards out. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau weeped while Dobson caught an 81-yard bomb for a score then LeGarrette Blount closed it out with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Plenty of people will take too much out of what turned out to be a lopsided win for the Pats. I simply look at it as them putting it together against one of the worst teams in the NFL. Look at their upcoming schedule, there is no automatic win like Pittsburgh on the horizon. New England will use their break wisely as they return for two consecutive primetime games against playoff contenders: at Carolina for a Monday Night game (11/18) then hosting Denver on the following Sunday Night (11/24). How the Patriots fare in those difficult matchups should tell us much more about them than this. Still, they are pointed in the right direction especially if Aqib Talib ever returns this season.

UPDATE 11/5: The Patriots had some moves before they go into the bye week for real: they released Austin Collie and signed WR LaQuan Williams to take his place on the 53-man roster. Additionally, they signed RB Cierre Wood to the practice squad while Steve Gregory has a broken thumb and he could miss a few weeks. Stay tuned on that injury although truthfully, it doesn't mean much since he's a bum.

UPDATE 11/8: Logan Mankins was fined $10,000 for clipping vs. Pittsburgh.

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