Most expected a competitive battle. Instead, it was a clinic.
With quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns, the New England Patriots are headed to their ninth Super Bowl as a franchise. Reaching that feat was the result of a 36-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
Brady seemed his normal self in this pressure-filled playoff setting. After a two interception performance against Houston last week, Brady cruised to a much easier outing, making it look routine in the process. Receiver Chris Hogan hauled in nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns for New England. Fellow starter Julian Edelman another 118 yards and a touchdown as well for the Patriots.
An injury to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell in the first quarter haunted Pittsburgh the rest of the way. The Steelers narrowed an early 10-0 deficit to 10-6 thanks to a DeAngelo Williams touchdown run. Oddly, Pittsburgh still seemed out of sync the entire night.
A 34-yard flea flicker touchdown from Brady to Hogan extended their lead to 17-6 midway through the second quarter. By the time Brady connected with Edelman for a 10-yard score late in the third quarter, New England took a commanding 33-9 lead.
Two key turnovers by Pittsburgh in the third and fourth quarter allowed New England to convert those into 10 points.
Star Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown saw an overwhelming amount of double teams on the day. He was able to total seven catches for 77 yards. However, the stud receiver was not able to make big plays during the game and was neutralized quite well.
Outside of last week’s puzzling outing, Brady was able to reach over 130 on the QB rating in three of his last five games played. If Brady was trying to send a message, he sent one loud and clear in this one. Now the Patriots are headed to Houston, Texans to tussle with the high-flying Atlanta Falcons for the Super Bowl title on February 5th.