FOXBOROUGH — Good thing Antonio Brown’s coming to town to rescue this offense.
Just kidding. These guys are already pretty good. OK, really good. OK, OK, supremely good.
Oh, and the defense? Mercy.
Shortly after they dropped their sixth Super Bowl banner, the Patriots dropped the Steelers, the last team to beat them, 33-3, before a packed house at Gillette Stadium Sunday night.
Showing surgical precision at times, the Patriots’ offense carved their way through the Steeler defense and the New England defenders consistently muted Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown-less attack.
“We made plays in all three phases of the game,’’ said Bill Belichick. “Give the players credit, they were ready to go, they played well.’’
Tom Brady completed 24 of 36 passes for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Patriots piled up 465 yards of total offense.
After their initial drive sputtered — and there was even a silver lining there as rookie Jake Bailey launched a 53-yard punt — the Patriots scored on four of their next five drives to build a 20-0 halftime lead.
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense couldn’t get out of their own way. Or, more aptly, out of the way of New England’s multiple defensive looks.
Brady marched the Patriots 82 yards on seven plays on their second possession, the drive capped by a 20-yard catch-and-run from Josh Gordon.
Gordon snagged Brady’s crosser at the 20 and turned up field. He vaulted over diving cornerback Joe Haden at the 10, slipped past safety Terrell Edmunds, and then dragged Anthony Chickillo into the end zone with him. For good measure, Gordon chucked the ball into the stands.
Gordon’s play was flashy, but it was set up by an equally exciting one on the previous snap.
Brady hit Julian Edelman with a quick zip behind the line of scrimmage and Edelman gave it the old college (quarterback) heave-ho, sending a spiral back across the field to James White. With a convoy of offensive linemen out front, White scooted his way to a 32-yard gain.
The Patriots put the pedal to the metal on the drive, going no-huddle, up-tempo the entire journey, but it was the Steelers who were out of gas by then end.
New England held the ball for 12 plays and more than five minutes on their next scoring drive, a 25-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.
Josh McDaniels showed several looks on the drive, including a flash 10 personnel with four receivers and one back.
Jakobi Meyers opened it with his first career reception, a nice 22-yard grab from Brady in which the rookie took a wicked hit in the back but shrugged it off and picked up some yards after the catch.
Edelman also had his 500th career catch on the possession, becoming the fifth Patriot to reach the mark.
New England found the end zone again two possessions later, when Brady threaded a gorgeous 25-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett between Steelers defenders Mike Hilton and Edmunds.
On their final possession of the first half, which was set up by the defense stopping the Steelers on a fourth and 1, New England went 30 yards before Gostkowski’s 41-yarder gave them a 20-0 lead at the break.
While the offense was providing the fireworks, it was the defense making all the thunderous noise. The Steelers finished with 308 yards, but the bulk of that came when they issue was settled.
Pittsburgh managed a measly 87 yards over the first 30 minutes as New England had an answer for every question.
“Every time we put on a great defensive performance it’s because we kind of stuck to the game plan, and I would say that’s what we did today,’’ said safety Devin McCourty. “Just being able to adjust, and [the Steelers] gave us a lot of different things, whether it was a two-back situation, whether it was four wide, five wide, they did a bunch of different things, and I think our ability to adjust and communicate out there helped us out a lot on defense, and I think that’s just something we have to continue to work on and get better.’’
Roethlisberger hit 27 of 47 passes for 276 yards and was tap-dancing for his life on nearly every drop back.
Juju Smith-Schuster, the heir apparent to Brown, had just two catches in the first half as Stephon Gilmore was giving him fits.
James Conner, the back who made Steeler fans forget about Le’Veon Bell last season, had little room to breathe, never mind run. He finished with just 21 yards on 10 carries.
After allowing their guests a short field goal on the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots’ offense went back to work, putting up a quick 10 points to stretch their lead to 30-3 after three quarters.
Brady hit Dorsett on 58-yard scoring strike on their first possession. Dorsett raced past the “Chris Hogan coverage” safeties Steven Nelson and Edmunds and collected Brady’s pass in stride for the score.
It brought back memories of 2016 AFC Championship game, when Pittsburgh allowed Hogan to run free through secondary all day.
Gostkowski tacked on a 35-yard field goal that was set up by a Brady-to-Gordon 42-yard bomb.