The New England Patriots showed their championship quality on day 1 of the NFL season, besting the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 in a sometimes thrilling game. The Patriots capped a long TD drive in the first quarter with a Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski pass, and never looked back. Showing the same firepower they did throughout the 2014 playoffs, Brady tossed two more TDs to Gronkowski, and one more to backup tight end Scott Chandler for good measure.
Brady was hoping to put the Deflategate drama from this offseason behind him and his team with his play Thursday night. To even the most casual observer, Brady did just that, going 25-32 for 288 yards and 4 TDs. Brady’s stellar performance combined with the raising of the Patriots latest Super Bowl championship banner, made for a celebratory night for the home crowd in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The Pittsburgh Steelers appeared game at times, but while QB Ben Roethlisberger moved his offense down the field rather effortlessly with the help of RB DeAngelo Williams and WR Antonio Brown, two early Josh Scobee field goal misses set the tone for Pittsburgh in terms of failing to put points on the board when they were within reach. Roethlisberger looked frustrated at times with his team inability to capitalize once deep in Patriots territory, but his frustration couldn’t match that of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in his post-game press conference. With a new gamesmanship controversy brewing, Tomlin called out the Patriots claiming he and his assistant’s could hear the Patriots’ radio broadcast in their communicative headsets on the sidelines. The NFL has since commented saying they were league provided headsets, and that both teams suffered from the same issue due to inclement weather in the area.
Now that the Patriots have passed their first big test on such a large national stage, pundits will undoubtedly begin anointing them this years champions. Not so fast however, as the AFC East is a much improved division. The Miami Dolphins have added arguably the most dominant defensive player in Ndamukong Suh, the Buffalo Bills in addition to fiery new head coach Rex Ryan have added offensive playmakers LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin, while the New York Jets have stiffened their defense by bringing back Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The Patriots will begin their path navigating the division next week when they travel to Buffalo.
While the Patriots looked strong through the air, their running game led by Dion Lewis making his first NFL regular season appearance, looked suspect. Lewis rushed for just 69 yards, while losing a key fumble near the goal line that was recovered by Gronkowski. The Patriots receive a boost next week however when RB Legarrette Blount returns from suspension.
The Patriots passed their first test on the road to a repeat championship with flying colors.