Week 9 Report Card: Patriots defeat Steelers, 55-31
The New England Patriots became the first team in NFL history to hang 55 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers. In finding the end zone seven times, Tom Brady and the offense posted 610 total yards. The beat down they laid on the Steelers without question marks the Patriots most impressive victory this season.
New England overpowered Mike Tomlin’s once mighty defense through the air and on the ground. Brady threw for 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for the 15th time in his career. Stevan Ridley eclipsed 100-yards rushing and found pay dirt twice in the contest. Rob Gronkowski is finally fully back, as he was unstoppable. Pittsburgh had no answer for not only Gronkowski but Danny Amendola as well.
Bill Belichick’s defense yielded 31 points and 479 total yards, but it was the 3 turnovers they forced that altered the landscape, setting up the offense for ensuing scoring drives. A relentless pass rush was evident. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger 5 times on the afternoon
In victory, New England improved to 7-2, as they head for a much needed buy week. As of right now the Patriots sit in second place in the AFC and they have to be thrilled that they’re finding their stride at the right time. Moving forward the Patriots will only get healthier and more dangerous in doing so.
Here are my positional grades:
Marred by stretches of inconstancy through the first eight weeks of the season, Brady returned to form on Sunday. He was simply amazing. Brady put the ball were it needed to be time after time, hitting several big plays through the air.
His signature aerial strike went for 81-yards deep down the left sideline to Aaron Dobson for a touchdown. Brady put a perfect amount of touch on the throw, dropping the pigskin right into the hands of Dobson as he was in stride.
It was apparent that he was thrilled with having Gronk back and dominating. Brady completed 9 balls to the big man.
Final Stat Line: 23-33, 429 YDS, 4 TD, 0 INT
Running backs: A+
He received the bulk of the carries and he did not disappoint. Ridley scampered for 115-yards and a pair of scores. He ran with conviction and was able to rack up several yards after initial contact. Following a shaky start to the season, Ridley is showing signs of maturing, while regaining the go to tailback role on the team. His two scores give him four touchdowns in the last two weeks.
Final Stat Line: 26 carries, 115 YDS, 2 TD
Blount has been the perfect compliment to Ridley this season. He is large, powerful and has deceptive speed. Like Ridley, Blount is difficult to bring down and can pick up yards in chunks and he did just that on Sunday. Blount only got 5 five carries but made the most of them, running for 9.9-yards a clip. He found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Final Stat Line: 5 carries, 47 YDS, 1 TD
Bolden saw a more diminished role with the heavy reliance on Ridley. Though he was highly effective when his number was called. Bolden averaged 12 yards a carry.
Final Stat Line: 3 carries, 36 YDS
Wide Receivers: A
Dobson is blossoming into a deep threat before our very eyes. As the Patriots offense has regained its health, the pressure on Dobson has diminished and he is flourishing as a result. He is showing greater knowledge of how to run his routes to the liking of Brady and it’s paying great dividends.
He hauled in 5 passes that averaged a whopping 26-yards a pop. His may have burnt the Steelers defense deep for an 81-yard strike, but it was his back shoulder touchdown reception earlier in the game that was most impressive. Brady and Dobson have failed in completing such a play on numerous prior occasions this year. Seeing the two finally connect is surely promising.
Final Stat Line: 5 Rec, 130 YDS, 2 TD
In his second game back following missed time due to a hit to the head, Amendola is finally settling into the Patriots offensive system. He was the beneficiary of a 57-yard gainer and also scored a touchdown.
Amendola also caught a pair of balls to move the chains on crucial third downs. It would appear as if the trust and chemistry between both Brady and himself is on the rise.
Final Stat Line: 4 Rec, 22 YDS, 1 TD
Tight End: A+
Gronk turned in his best performance since returning from injury and looked completely at ease in doing so. He was matchup nightmare no matter where he lined up and no one seemed to be able to keep up with the monster. Gronk was once again Brady’s go to man as he was targeted 10 times and caught 9 of them.
Though Gronk’s biggest value showed up in his ability to spread out the defense and force favorable matchups on the outside. His presence alone commands double coverage the majority of the time, allowing others to step up and make plays when he does not. It’s safe to say Gronk is back and the Patriots offense will continue to role.
Final Stat Line: 9 Rec, 143 YDS, 1 TD
Offensive Line: A
The Pats offensive line gave Brady sufficient time to make big plays though the air all game long. Brady was sacked just 3 times and he manned the pocket with confidence. They also dominated the point of attack in run game on the way to eclipsing 190-yards rushing.
The line isn’t a glorious position and their efforts often get overlooked. But New England’s offensive explosion can be credited to the success of the 5 men up front who make it all possible.
Defensive Line: B
Chandler Jones had himself a signature game as he notched 2 sacks and several other disruptions up front. Rob Ninkovich had a strip sack and rookie Joe Vellano was there to plop on it. Andre Carter also got after it with a sack of his own. Jones and Carter each had 3 quarterback hits as well.
Dane Fletcher recorded a key sack, but other than that, this group was quiet. Brandon Spikes recorded just 3 tackles. Donta Hightower was respectable, chipping in with a pass defense. Though this group struggled mightily in defending the pass as a whole.
Normally when you allow 400-yards passing, 4 touchdowns through the air and 2 90-yard receivers, you flunk in my book. The fact that Aqib Talib was missing in action needs to be taken into consideration. He is by far and away the Patriots best corner and the Steelers would have had much more resistance in facing him.
Special Teams: A
Julian Edelman returned a punt for 43-yards that allowed Brady and the offense to take over in prime scoring position. Stephen Gostkowski nailed both field goal attempts that he tried. He has now made 22/23 this season. Rookie punter Ryan Allen also booted the ball well, averaging 50.5-yards per punt.