FOXBORO, Mass. — After eight weeks of the defense having to bail out the offense time and time again, Tom Brady and the offense finally stepped up in Week 9.
And given all the injuries on defense, the offense may need to continue to step up. Rob Ninkovich hurt his foot and Steve Gregory appeared to break his thumb. Add those to the already existing injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly and Aqib Talib and it’s a wonder how New England has won any games.
Of course, the Steelers aren’t exactly the steepest of competition. Pittsburgh has struggled all year and have now fallen to 2-6 on the season after the Patriots’ win.
Check out this week’s stars of the game below.
Tom Brady: It was back to the norm for Brady — and we’re talking about pre-2013 norm.
Brady was on fire today completing 23 of 33 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns. It was the best game he’s had this season by far.
For the Patriots’ sake, hopefully this is a sign of things to come for Brady, who struggled the first eight games of the season. And it’s very fair to say Brady has struggled.
Brady was helped out by his receivers, especially Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Dobson wasn’t too shabby either.
Rob Gronkowski: This was the first game where Gronkowski looked like his usual self. It appears it took two games for the tight end to go back to his uncoverable ways. He caught nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers’ defense certainly isn’t great, but Gronkowski was making some amazing catches, using his hands rather than his body, allowing him to reach down the field to pull in Brady’s well-placed passes. Gronkowski’s catches is a new career high.
Gronkowski got banged up midway through the third quarter, but came back after New England collectively gulped. He made more big plays down the stretch, so it didn’t appear serious at all.
Aaron Dobson: It’s pretty amazing how quickly Dobson has emerged. He looked good in the summer and preseason, but got off to a very slow start and earned the nickname “Dropson.” It’s time to retire that moniker.
Dobson is a very legit deep threat. Brady hit Dobson perfectly down the left sideline and Dobson scored on an 81-yard touchdown. Dobson was good throughout the game, hauling in five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. New England couldn’t have hoped for better progression from their second pick in the 2013 draft.
Devin McCourty: McCourty continued his propensity for big plays. He had a huge first-quarter interception, flying toward the sideline on a pass intended for Antonio Brown.
Teams are still throwing deep on the Patriots, but McCourty is making them pay. It wasn’t a typically-dominant performance by New England’s D, but they were solid and McCourty did a nice job in the back end of the field.
Chandler Jones: After a down game against the Dolphins, Jones was big against the porous Pittsburgh offensive line. Jones had two sacks while playing outside linebacker in the base defense.
The Patriots may really need Jones if Ninkovich has to miss any time due to his foot injury. Ninkovich left the game in the third quarter and did not return.
Stevan Ridley and Danny Amendola also had big games. Dane Fletcher played well as the dime linebacker.