1. Tom Brady never left. There is no difference between his fourth quarter in the Super Bowl and his dissection of the Steelers defense. He's on the #DriveForFive and he's not pulling the bus over. 19 straight completions. Four touchdown passes. Are you kidding me? Brady is on a mission to prove himself yet again and that has to be scary for the league.
2. Dion Lewis looks awesome in the backfield, but that ball security is scary. There were multiple times- not just when he actually fumbled- where he extended a play with a defender dangerously close to the football. Some of that is a calculated risk. Bill Belichick is going to make him look back at his calculator. But James White? Brandon Bolden? No contest. Lewis looked great with 120 yards from scrimmage.
3. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman picked up from the end of last year, just like Brady. They looked like the savvy veterans they are on every snap, with Gronk winning in the trenches and the red zone, and Edelman gouging the Steelers between the 20s. Maybe Edelman will reach the end zone more this year, but with Gronk looking unstoppable, he might not have to.
4. The offensive line rotation was certainly interesting as the Patriots never settled on an optimal line. It seemed like an open audition for the guard positions, with Tre Jackson and Josh Kline looking like early winners, but Shaq Mason looking good in his own right. Undrafted free agent rookie David Andrews looked like he improved as the game wore on and he'll be a good back-up down the road. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have nothing to worry about from Marcus Cannon.
5. Malcolm Butler didn't have his best night, but no one could argue that he wasn't competitive. He shadowed Antonio Brown the entire game- and Brown led the league in yards last season- and he was only really beaten twice (both went for 30+ yard gains). The Patriots felt comfortable leaving him kind of on an island, which speaks to their trust in his ability and his upside. He was in great position for two catches by Brown- once at the start of the game, and the touchdown at the end- and had a good enough first outing. It's all easier from here.
6. Jabaal Sheard might have taken the starting job away from Rob Ninkovich as Ninkovich was picked on by the Steelers rushing attack. Nink failed to set the edge on at least three separate occasions, allowing Williams to pick up lots of yards on the outside. Sheard was both a stouter run defender and a better pass rusher. It won't be surprising to see Ninkovich coming off the bench down the road.
7. Dominique Easley injured his hip, which is a major loss for the Patriots Easley was looking great early on in the game, but an awkward twist by the offensive lineman left Easley limping. The severity of the injury is currently unknown, but it's certainly worth monitoring because the interior becomes far weaker with him on the sideline. Geneo Grissom, who helped replace Easley, is a big drop in talent.
8. The run defense was atrocious this week and there's no avoiding that. Either the Steelers were running at Ninkovich with no problem, or they were sealing rookie Malcom Brown out of the interior lanes. Pittsburgh picked their fights in the trenches and won them. A Chandler Jones - Alan Branch - Sealver Siliga - Jabaal Sheard defensive line is likely the best grouping New England could ask for.
9. Jerod Mayo was behind Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins in the depth chart, with Collins receiving the green dot for play calling. Mayo was used in the goal line packages, but he's going to rotate with Hightower for the time being, while Collins will be the 100% snap linebacker.
10. While the final score shows 28-21, the Patriots were just interested in running down the clock after building the 28-14 lead. Ben Roethlisberger picked up 77 yards in the air and a touchdown on that drive to pad his stats, but they were ultimately meaningless yards. Don't worry about the stats. Look at the product the Patriots put on the field before that final drive because that's more telling of the actual defensive capabilities.