Final, Patriots 33-3: The New England Patriots kicked off their Super Bowl title defense in style Sunday night, throttling the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in their 2019 season opener.
Tom Brady completed 24 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Phillip Dorsett, who set a new career high with 95 yards on four catches. Brady’s other touchdown went to Josh Gordon, who caught three passes on four targets for 73 yards in his first game back from suspension.
Defensively, the Patriots stymied Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger-led offense, holding them to just one field goal and an inauspicious 3-for-11 showing on third down. Devin McCourty recorded an interception, and Jason McCourty (three) and Jonathan Jones (two) each tallied multiple pass breakups.
The Patriots will travel to Miami next Sunday to take on a tanking Dolphins team that lost 59-10 to the Baltimore Ravens in its opener.
Fourth quarter, 4:17, Patriots 33-3: A heave into the end zone by Ben Roethlisberger wound up in the waiting arms of Devin McCourty, who held on for the first interception of this Patriots season.
Several Patriots defenders, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore, have been lifted for reserves.
Fourth quarter, 6:42, Patriots 33-3: The Patriots added another field goal but lost their starting right tackle.
While lead-blocking for Sony Michel, Marcus Cannon fell hard on his right forearm/wrist and remained down on the field. He eventually jogged off the field but immediately was taken to the sideline medical tent for further evaluation.
The Patriots announced Cannon injured his shoulder on the play. He is questionable to return.
The Patriots only dressed two offensive tackles, so they needed to do some shuffling once Cannon went down. Left guard Joe Thuney moved to right tackle, with Jermaine Eluemunor replacing him at guard.
Fourth quarter, 12:26, Patriots 30-3: Back-to-back pass breakups by Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty and a drop by Donte Moncrief on fourth down once again kept the Steelers out of the end zone.
Of all Pittsburgh players, Moncrief has endured an especially miserable night. He has just two catches on nine targets for 4 yards.
Third quarter, 0:13, Patriots 30-3: If Bill Belichick has one gripe about his team’s offense after this game, it’ll likely be about its lack of success in the red zone. The Patriots now have failed to score touchdowns on drives that ended at the Steelers’ 7- and 17-yard lines.
Of course, that’s hardly mattered. The Patriots are pulverizing the Steelers, with Tom Brady connecting on another deep ball during their latest possession. This one went for 42 yards to Josh Gordon, who held on despite absorbing a big-time hit.
Third quarter, 8:05, Patriots 27-3: Phillip Dorsett. See ya.
That bomb from Tom Brady resulted in a 58-yard touchdown, Dorsett’s second score of the night. His 95 receiving yards represents a new career high.
Third quarter, 10:17, Patriots 20-3: The Steelers’ most productive drive of the night stalled on the Patriots’ 1-yard line.
A 45-yard completion to James Washington over Jason McCourty moved Pittsburgh into the red zone, and a defensive holding call on Stephon Gilmore extended the drive.
The Steelers were able to recover a Deatrich Wise sack-fumble one play after Gilmore’s penalty, but Jamie Collins and Gilmore dragged James Conner down just short of the goal line on the ensuing snap, and a Ben Roethlisberger pass to Donte Moncrief on third down fell incomplete.
Rather than try for a 1-yard touchdown, Pittsburgh settled for a 19-yard field goal.
Halftime, Patriots 20-0: Stephen Gostowski closed out the first half by booting a 41-yard field goal to extend the Patriots’ lead to 20 points. This has been a dominant showing from the home team on both sides of the ball.
James White leads the Patriots in both rushing (24 yards on three carries) and receiving (56 yards on five catches). One of his receptions came from Julian Edelman, who has three catches of his own on six targets for 49 yards.
Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett both caught first-half touchdown passes, and Jakobi Meyers turned his lone target into a 22-yard gain.
Defensively, the Patriots have held the Steelers to 65 yards through the air and 22 on the ground. Pittsburgh is 1-for-6 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down.
There’s also this:
Second quarter, 1:55, Patriots 17-0: Patrick Chung swatted the ball away from Donte Moncrief on fourth-and-1 to turn the ball over on downs.
Pittsburgh’s passing game has been nearly nonexistent tonight.
Second quarter, 3:49, Patriots 17-0: Tom Brady has found his groove.
The QB closed out New England’s latest drive with four consecutive completions: 8 yards to James White, 16 yards to Julian Edelman, 24 yards to Edelman and a 25-yard touchdown to Phillip Dorsett. All four of those completions came off play action.
Kyle Van Noy continues to like what he sees:
Second quarter, 7:11, Patriots 10-0: Jamie Collins knifed into the backfield and dropped James Conner behind the line on third-and-1 — New England’s second third-and-short stand in as many drives.
This Patriots defense certainly is living up to the hype in this first half. The Steelers have 55 yards of total offense over four possessions.
Second quarter, 9:12, Patriots 10-0: Three-and-out for the Patriots.
Interior pressure by Cameron Heyward against Ted Karras on second down disrupted Tom Brady’s throwing motion, resulting in an incompletion, and Brady couldn’t connect with James White on third down.
Second quarter, 10:00, Patriots 10-0: A powerful run stuff by Danny Shelton on third-and-short resulted in Pittsburgh’s second consecutive three-and-out.
The Steelers opened the drive in five-wide receiver personnel, which the Patriots countered with seven defensive backs and four down linemen. Pittsburgh utilized that offensive package a lot against New England in the teams’ last meeting after not showing it at all in the first 14 weeks of the 2018 season.
Second quarter, 11:52, Patriots 10-0: After a Steelers three-and-out and a quality 20-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski, the Patriots drove inside Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line before settling for a 35-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
The standout play of the drive came courtesy of undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers, who, on his first NFL snap, caught a dart from Tom Brady, bounced off cornerback Artie Burns and fell forward for another few yards to pick up 22.
Sony Michel has just 8 yards on seven carries this far, but he did pick up three short-yardage first downs on the latest series.
Julian Edelman also caught one pass to reach the 500-reception plateau for his career.
First quarter, 4:46, Patriots 7-0: Welcome back, Josh Gordon.
In his first official game since being suspended last December, Gordon caught a short pass from Tom Brady on a crossing route, ran directly through cornerback Joe Haden and muscled his way into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, New England’s first of the new season.
The Patriots used some trickeration to set up the score, with Julian Edelman connecting with James White one play earlier on a double pass that picked up 32 yards.
Tom Brady was part of the lead-blocking caravan on the play, which surely caused Patriots fans’ blood pressure to spike. Fortunately for New England, the 42-year-old quarterback emerged unharmed.
First quarter, 7:54, 0-0: The teams traded punts to begin this opening quarter.
Pittsburgh booted the ball away after Ben Roethlisberger’s deep ball to Johnny Holton on third-and-6 fell incomplete, with slot corner Jonathan Jones providing tight coverage on the play.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore shadowed top Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster throughout the drive, lining up opposite the 2018 Pro Bowler on every snap. This included a few trips into the slot for Gilmore, who typically plays more outside.
Smith-Schuster won the first battle in that highly anticipated matchup, beating Gilmore for a 7-yard reception on second-and-6 to move the chains.
Outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun started for New England in place of Kyle Van Noy, who tweeted his support.
Gunner Olszewski fair-caught the Pittsburgh punt. He’s replacing Julian Edelman in that role.
First quarter, 11:54, 0-0: The Patriots opened the game with five consecutive runs — including a 9-yarder by James White for a first down — before Tom Brady tried to connect with Julian Edelman deep on third-and-10. That ball fell short of its mark, bringing on the punting unit.
Running backs White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden all saw snaps on the opening drive, with Bolden, who typically plays exclusively on special teams, even getting a carry on an end-around from the slot.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: After an electric pregame ceremony that featured Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Rob Ninkovich, Martellus Bennett, Robert Kraft, Rob Gronkowski and (for some reason) Godsmack, it’s time to get this season underway.
The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to defer. It’ll be Tom Brady’s ball first.
7:43 p.m.: If there was any question over how Tom Brady feels about the Antonio Brown signing, this pregame report from NBC’s Al Michaels definitively answered it.
Relaying conversations he had with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, Michaels said Brady was “a million percent” on board with adding Brown and even offered to let the wide receiver live with him until he got settled in New England.
7:35 p.m.: Couldn’t catch our Pregame Chat? No worries. You can watch the full show by clicking the link below.
Reminder: The Patriots will unveil their Super Bowl LIII banner before kickoff. That ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
6:50 p.m.: Here are the Patriots’ inactives for tonight:
CB Joejuan Williams
S Obi Melifonwu
RB Damien Harris
WR Demaryius Thomas
OL Korey Cunningham
LB Kyle Van Noy
DL Byron Cowart
The biggest surprise on that list is Van Noy, who was not listed on the injury report this week and is a defensive starter. The reason for the linebacker’s absence is unclear, but he and his wife are expecting the imminent arrival of their first child.
With Thomas (hamstring) sitting out, the Patriots will roll with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski at receiver.
In another surprise, tight end Matt LaCosse is active after being limited in practice this week with an ankle injury. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported this morning LaCosse was not expected to play.
With Cunningham out, the Patriots will play with just two active tackles tonight. Left guard Joe Thuney likely will serve as the emergency backup.
Rookies Chase Winovich, Jake Bailey, Meyers and Olszewski are active and will make their NFL debuts tonight.
5:10 p.m.: First player on the field this afternoon: Julian Edelman, who’s preparing to play his first meaningful game since his MVP performance in Super Bowl LIII.
3:15 p.m.: As we count down the hours until kickoff, take a look at the gameday hype videos shared on social media today by Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon.
Brady’s and Edelman’s are conventional pump-up fare filled with Patriots highlights, while Gordon’s is … well, it features a cartoon version of him emerging from a whale’s mouth to meet two wolves on a beach.
Yeah, it’s a little weird.
2:30 p.m. ET: It’s a beautiful day for a banner raising.
Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots are preparing to open their 2019 schedule against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on “Sunday Night Football.”
Before kickoff, the Patriots will unveil their Super Bowl LIII champions banner in a ceremony that’s sure to include a slew of players from previous championship squads. (Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Drew Bledsoe all are back in town, according to Willie McGinest’s Instagram account.)
Once the festivities have concluded, we’ll get our first true look at the 2019 Patriots, whose offense underwent some significant offseason changes and whose defense, which now runs a 3-4 base scheme, has the potential to be one of the very best in the NFL.
New England’s super-powered receiving corps won’t be at full strength until next week at the earliest — newly signed superstar Antonio Brown isn’t eligible to play until Week 2, and Demaryius Thomas is questionable with a hamstring injury — but tonight’s opener should feature the regular-season return of Josh Gordon, whose indefinite suspension was lifted last month.
Until Brown debuts, Gordon should serve as the Patriots’ No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman, with Thomas (if healthy), Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers likely sharing third/fourth wideout duties.
Speaking of pass-catchers, the Patriots will be extremely lean at tight end in this game. Matt LaCosse (ankle) reportedly is not expected to play, leaving Ryan Izzo as the only available option at the position.
The Patriots are 11-4 overall against the Steelers during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era and 5-1 at home, with the lone loss coming during the Matt Cassel season in 2008. Ben Roethlisberger and Co. emerged victorious in the teams’ latest meeting, however, winning 17-10 at Heinz Field in Week 15 of last season.
Kickoff for tonight’s rematch is set for 8:20 p.m. ET. Keep it locked here throughout the afternoon for full pregame coverage.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images