After the Patriots went into halftime with a 17-9 lead, the rest of the game was all New England. The Steelers opened the second half with two punts, a fumble, a turnover on downs, and an interception. The Patriots answered with two touchdowns and two field goals, with a punt sandwiched in the middle.
There wasn’t much to recap from the second half because every single drive seemed like a repeat of one we’ve already seen. A big pass to WR Chris Hogan. A clutch third down conversion to WR Julian Edelman. A headscratching run for negative yards. A Patriots receiver left wide open.
The Steelers were at a clear disadvantage as RB Le’Veon Bell left the game with a groin injury. While Bell’s back-up RB DeAngelo Williams is a capable back, the loss of Bell allowed the Patriots to focus their attention on WR Antonio Brown and were able to stifle the entire Pittsburgh offense.
The entire fourth quarter was garbage time as the Patriots held a 33-9 lead; teams with 24+ point leads entering the 4th quarter are 1434-1-1 all time. The Steelers had no chance.
QB Tom Brady finished the day 32 of 42 (76.2%) for 384 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 127.5 passer rating. His deep ball was nearly perfect all game as he connected with WR Chris Hogan for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 receptions. WR Julian Edelman added 118 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions.
No other Patriots skill player really stepped up, but that’s okay; the Patriots didn’t have to look beyond their first or second read very often as the Steelers defense was cut up like Swiss cheese. The Patriots will need a better performance out of LG Joe Thuney to protect Brady in the Super Bowl. Hopefully TE Martellus Bennett will be healthy enough to be a larger contributor.
The Patriots will have some work on defense during the Super Bowl bye week. CB Eric Rowe was torched on multiple occasions by go routes, including a 30-yard garbage time touchdown to Steelers WR Cobi Hamilton; Rowe will have a target on his chest when he faces the Atlanta Falcons. CB Logan Ryan also had some issues jamming his receiver in the slot, but still played a solid game.
The Patriots are on to the Falcons and Super Bowl LI as 3-point favorites.