Another classic revenge game in the early parts of the Patriots dynasty comes during the 2004 season. The Patriots opened up the season with 6 consecutive wins to establish an NFL record 21-game win streak that started in October 2003. The streak would end in Heinz Field, Pittsburgh as the Pittsburgh Steelers led by a veteran defense and rookie hotshot Ben Roethlisberger blew out the Patriots 34-20. The Patriots would come back to Pittsburgh in January and return the favor with a 41-27 beating in which they turned Roethlisberger into a chump and victimized a vaunted Steelers defense.
The Patriots started the 2004 season 6-0, but injuries caught up to them in a tough matchup against the Steelers. The team was without the services of both top RB Corey Dillon and top receiver Deion Branch, which made the game more difficult for the Patriots on offense. The Patriots would open up with a opening drive field goal, but the Steelers would answer with a pair of touchdowns to Plaxico Burress, a player who historically has been a thorn in the side of the Patriots and a pick-six by Deshea Townsend that put the Patriots behind 24-3 near the end of the second quarter. The Patriots were able to establish some rhythm on offense, scoring 17 points in the final 31 minutes of the game but could not climb out of that deficit.
During the game the Steelers, as they like to do, ran their mouths about a regular season win over the New England Patriots. The Steelers have a history of doing that before getting curb-stomped by the Patriots in the upcoming matchup, and you just knew the Patriots were itching for a chance to do that as soon as that game ended.
Tedy Bruschi best sums it up right here:
The game would ultimately have major ramifications in the AFC playoff structure, as the Steelers would clinch home field advantage with a 15-1 record while the Patriots were the #2 seed at 14-2. The Patriots would curb-stomp league MVP Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts by a 20-3 score in the Divisional Round, which set up a redemption game for the Patriots as they traveled to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game. The vibe the Patriots had that week was they were there to give the Steelers a beat-down they would never forget. Deion Branch and Corey Dillon were both active for the game and played significant roles for the team.
The Patriots got a quick interception from Roethlisberger, which turned into the longest field goal in Heinz Field history by Adam Vinatieri when he nailed a 48-yard kick. The Steelers would drive to the Patriots 40 before Jerome Bettis was stuffed on a 4th and 1 rush and promptly fumbled the ball. Tom Brady would hit Deion Branch on the deep post on the very next play for a 60-yard touchdown and the rout was on. The Steelers would kick a field goal, but the Patriots answered with a 17-yard catch and run for a TD by David Givens and Rodney Harrison intercepted a Roethlisberger pass and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown to build a 24-3 lead. That score would prove to be significant since the Steelers led that Week 8 game by that score.
The Steelers would try to score to try to get back in the game, but the Patriots had an answer for every Steeler touchdown. After Jerome Bettis scored on the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half, Corey Dillon returned the favor to make it 31-10. Hines Ward would catch a TD to make it 31-17, but Deion Branch took an end-around for 23 yards as he ran circles around the Steelers defense before waving them goodbye as he crossed the goal line to make it 41-20 and complete the redemption tour. The Patriots defense would force 4 turnovers and the Patriots offense made them hurt, scoring 17 points off those turnovers.
The Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIX by a 24-21 score over the Philadelphia Eagles and cement themselves as a dynasty with 3 championships in 4 seasons.