The Patriots unveiled their sixth Super Bowl banner before Sunday night’s game, and then proceeded to reveal a roster that could have an excellent shot at landing them a seventh title sooner rather than later.
New England vaporized the Steelers, 33-3, as Tom Brady finished 24-for-36 for 351 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. He got a big night from Julian Edelman (six catches, 83 yards), Phillip Dorsett (four catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns), James White (26 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving) and Josh Gordon (three catches, 73 yards, one touchdown).
Maybe the most impressive thing about Sunday’s victory? They did it without Antonio Brown, Ben Watson, and Kyle Van Noy. (Brown’s signing is expected to be made official in the next 24 hours, while Watson is out because of a four-game suspension, and Van Noy was out because his wife was reportedly giving birth).
The Patriots jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead with touchdown passes for Gordon and Dorsett, as well as a pair of field goals from Stephen Gostkowski (25 and 41 yards). And even with the big lead, it still felt like New England left some points on the field.
On those rare occasions when the Patriots’ offense stalled, the Steelers were unable to take advantage. For Pittsburgh, it was another sad and sorrowful appearance at Gillette Stadium -- the Steelers were 2-for-10 on third down, and never managed to get any sort of offensive traction. A sizable part of that, of course, was because of the New England defense, which was able to drop back into dime coverage much of the evening as the Patriots’ offense garnered a big lead. New England’s defense, which has been so sharp all summer long, has now gone back to back games (if you include the Super Bowl) without allowing a touchdown.
Marcus Cannon down for the Patriots. Their tackle depth is really thin. Not good— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 9, 2019
10:45 p.m.: The Patriots’ offense...
Dorsett: four catches for 95 yards and 2 TDs
White: 3 carries for 24 yards; 5 catches for 56 yards
Gordon: 3 catches for 73 yards, 1 TD
Edelman: 5 catches for 70 yards
Brady: 22-for-31, 325 yards, 3 TDs
And it’s adding Antonio Brown this week.
10:31 p.m.: Brady is 22-for-31 for 325 yards with three touchdowns. Patriots are up 30-3 at the end of the third quarter. Have to wonder if we’re going to see Stidham at some point in the fourth quarter.
10:19 p.m.: Time to start monitoring the run-pass splits from this point on for the Steelers. They have to keep throwing to have any shot tonight. Lots of dime the rest of the way for New England, I’d imagine.
10:14 p.m.: THAT was a complete coverage bust by the Steelers. Oof. 27-3 with 8:05 left in the third quarter. As good as the New England defense has looked this summer, I’d be stunned if the Steelers will be able to break 20 tonight.
10:13 p.m.: One thing that definitely needs to be sharpened up is the center work. Ted Karras is floating some to Tom Brady.
10:08 p.m.: Pittsburgh’s drive ends with a field goal to make it 20-3 with 10:17 left in the third quarter. You can’t play it safe when you are facing New England at Gillette Stadium -- I think they should have gone for it there. But the Steelers are on the board. (For what it’s worth, the Patriots still haven’t allowed a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the AFC title game.)
10:00 p.m.: That’s the sort of play the Steelers need to jumpstart their offense. A deep ball to Washington gives them a bit of a spark, and gives them their first real scoring chance on the night.
9:41 p.m.: Another vague missed opportunity there for the New England offense, but it’s still 20-0 at the first half ... and should be more. Brady is 16-for-25 for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns.White 5 catches for 56 yards and 3 carries for 24 yards.
9:30 p.m.: Just a really sharp looking drive there for the New England passing game. Surgical throws underneath to Edelman, and then, you stretch the field just enough and put a throw on Dorsett where (basically) only he can get to it, and it’s a touchdown. 17-0 with 3:49 left in the first half.
9:18 p.m.: Steelers aiming to make a statement here midway through the second quarter. They need to display a sense of urgency to make sure this one doesn’t get away from here.
9:13 p.m.: If the Patriots end up winning this thing going away, we can go back to that decision to punt on 4th and short as one of those moments when Pittsburgh took the safe way out. Not sure you can do that sort of thing when you play New England at Gillette. Anyway, it’s 10-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
9:06 p.m.: It feels a little like the Patriots stalled a bit there in the red zone. (Do they miss a certainly wide-winged TE?) They still pick up the 25-yard field goal from Gostkowski to make it 10-0 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half. Pats look like they’re focused on spreading things out a bit here in the first half -- James White picking up good yardage underneath.
8:59 p.m.: Patriots are on the move again here as the first quarter comes to a close. On that last drive, Brady’s pass to Jakobi Meyers represented the first completed pass (in the regular season) for Brady to someone wearing the No. 16.
After one quarter:
White -- 3 carries, 24 yards
Brady -- 5-7 for 71 yards and a TD
White -- 2 catches, 36 yards
Gordon -- 1 catch, 20 yards, 1 TD
8:54 p.m.: This could start to get away from the Steelers here. We’ve seen this before when Pittsburgh has come into Foxborough. Sensing a key stretch here as the end of the first quarter looms.
8:44 p.m.: A seven-play, 82-yard drive that was highlighted by a funky little trick play and capped with a 20-yard pass play from Brady to Gordon makes it 7-0 with 4:46 left in the first quarter. A nice sequence for New England -- Brady is now 3-5 for 45 yards and a touchdown.
8:38 p.m.: Two teams feeling each other out here in the early going. Interested to see just how long New England tries to stick with the ground game here. Roughly midway through the first quarter and it’s scoreless.
8:33 p.m.: Looks like Gilmore on Smith-Schuster here in the early going for New England. Jamie Collins, Jonathan Jones, John Simon, Shilique Calhoun all on the field to start for the Patriots’ defense.
8:28 p.m.: Patriots tried to get some traction on the ground at the start, and couldn’t get much. Punting with 11:54 left in the first quarter.
8:07 p.m.: Lots of ex-Patriots in the house tonight, including Rob Gronkowski, Drew Bledsoe, Rob Ninkovich, Willie McGinest, and Ty Law.
7:55 p.m.: This is really interesting. I know there’s some hyperbole when it comes to something like this, but I’m hoping someone is going to ask Brady how this is all going to shake out from a logsitical perspective.
7:50 p.m.: OK, it’s prediction time. The Patriots are going to win an occasionally ragged game -- this is the opener after all, and they’re not playing the Dolphins. Brady ends up throwing a pick and a pair of touchdowns, while Duron Harmon comes away with a fourth-quarter takeaway that pretty much ends the ballgame. (Way to go out on a limb, Price.) I’ll say New England 28, Pittsburgh 17.
7:13 p.m.: So now we have some more clarity around Van Noy’s situation.
I don't know if this is why he's inactive but, FWIW, Kyle Van Noy and his wife Marissa are expecting a baby this month— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) September 8, 2019
6:55 p.m.: The following players are inactive for Sunday night’s game -- Joejuan Williams, Obi Melifonwu, Demaryius Thomas, Damien Harris, Korey Cunningham, Kyle Van Noy, Byron Cowart. The biggest surprise here is Van Noy, who wasn’t on the injury report all week. Could be a matchup thing, but it’s still an eye-opener Van Noy -- it’ll be curious to see who gets the bulk of the reps in his absence. (Collins? Winovich?) For what it’s worth, Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers will make their NFL debuts tonight.
6:52 p.m.: Your pregame reading list:
6:30 p.m.: After a wild offseason that was capped off this weekend with the acquisition of wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Patriots will open another Super Bowl defense Sunday night at Gillette Stadium against the Steelers. The answer to the first -- and most obvious -- question that most people have heading into the game is simple: No, Brown is not eligible to play against his former team. In fact, per this report, he’ll have to buy a ticket if he wants to be there tonight.
We’ll see how it all shakes out with Brown, but one thing we do know is that it certainly won’t be boring. Anyway, it figures to be a great night for football. Keep it here for all the updates throughout the evening. We’ll have Guess The Inactives and your pregame reading list up shortly.