FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933 and have built a proud reputation as one of the fiercest defensive franchises in NFL history.
Over the course of 60 minutes Sunday night – and in particular the final 15 – the New England Patriots treated them like middle schoolers.
The Patriots beat the Steelers 55-31 at Gillette Stadium. They had 610 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 432 yards.
Those stats – 55 points, 610 yards, 432 passing yards – are all franchise records for/against the Steelers. Not exactly the kind of records you want to set on national television.
But for the Patriots and their fans – already giddy after a pregame ceremony honoring the World Series champion Boston Red Sox – it was a spectacular day.
“It’s amazing,” said running back LeGarrette Blount, who finished the scoring with a 5-yard run, then threw the ball into the stands and high-fived the Minutemen. “It’s really good. Putting up 55 points against a team like the Steelers? … That’s just a sign of how good we can be.”
This was the offense that everyone in New England has been waiting for this year. Not just the fans. The Patriots too.
They’ve expected more from the running game. They’ve expected more from the receivers.
“It feels good,” said Brady, who threw for four touchdowns and had a near-perfect quarterback rating of 151.8 (perfect is 158.3). “They don’t always go like that. That was a fun day. It was good execution. I think, for the most part, that was our best execution.
“You don’t wake up in the morning and think they’re all going to be like that. That was pretty sweet.”
Everything was sweet.
Stevan Ridley rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots rushed for 197 overall.
Rob Gronkowski, looking healthier and more comfortable each week, caught a career-high nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Rookie Aaron Dobson had a coming-out party, catching five balls for 130 yards and touchdowns of 17 and 81 yards. Yes, 81.
Danny Amendola, also looking healthier after a groin injury and concussion, caught four passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Asked how he got so wide-open – and he was so open on his 34-yard touchdown catch and 57-yard reception that you or I could have completed the pass – he shrugged and dead-panned, “I was just running to where they told me to run. And it worked out.”
Even Bill Belichick wasn’t quite sure how to assess the offensive output.
“Well, I’m not exactly sure exactly how it all happened today, maybe we got some inspiration from the Red Sox,” he said.
What happened, he later said, was really very simple.
“We had good running, we had good throwing, good catching,” said the coach. “We made some big plays.”
And they got it from all phases. The defense forced a fumble, intercepted two passes and sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. Julian Edelman returned a punt 43 yards when the Patriots led 27-24, kick-starting the offensive explosion in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, we played complementary football,” said Belichick. “Kicking game, offense, defense, taking advantage of our scoring opportunities. It all ties in together.
“It’s great when it happens. It’s great to see it happen that way.”
Other than a couple of bad series in the third quarter, which allowed the Steelers to come back from 14 down at the half to tie the game at 24, the Patriots were purring.
Brady noted that the return of Gronkowski and Amendola gives the offense more options. But, he continued, “I think overall the team just keeps making improvements and that’s the most important thing.”
Mike Tomlin, the respected Steelers coach, had a very simple explanation for what happened after the Patriots scored 31 points in the final 20 minutes: “We didn’t stop them. That’s the bottom line. We couldn’t stop them.”
And maybe that’s what was so surprising about this game. The Steelers’ reputation is one of tough defense.
“You’ve got to earn everything you get against that team, especially that defense,” said Ryan Wendell, the Patriots center.
“I mean, those guys have played in that system for a long time and they all know how to play really well. And that defensive coordinator, (Dick) LeBeau, I mean he knows where to put those guys in position.
“So being able to score points like that, seeing our guys execute, run the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
If you’re from New England that is.
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: