So much for the out of sync Patriots offense, huh? Seven touchdowns, two field goals, and 610 yards later, the Patriots look like they have found their groove heading into the bye week. In the past six quarters, with both Gronk and Amendola working their way back, Dobson showing flashes, and Ridley starting to grind, the Patriots have put up 79 points. And the good news is that Shane Vereen is waiting in the wings, ready to return from his wrist injury. It also doesn't hurt that Aqib Talib will likely be back on the field against Carolina to shore up a defense that's been a little more pourous than it was at the start of the year.
No, the Patriots certainly weren't perfect. After leading 24-10 at halftime and starting with the ball, they managed to let the Steelers tie the game in a matter of minutes thanks to a turnover and some shaky defense. There were some flashbacks to the game two weeks ago against the Jets in that regards, letting a wounded team gain new life with sloppy play. This time, however, the Patriots fought back and steamrolled the Steelers the rest of the way with a powerful ground attack and some refound accuracy from Tom Brady.
The Patriots have lost Wilfork, Mayo, Kelly, and Vollmer for the season. They have played long stretches without Gronkowski, Amendola, Vereen, and Talib. Yet here they sit, at 7-2 heading into the bye week and would be the #2 seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today. It's been a masterful nine weeks defined by true resiliency, and as a fan, it has been in many ways even more rewarding than the past two years in which the team made it to the Super Bowl and then the AFC Championship. This group of Patriots is special, and definitely earned the six days off that Bill Belichick rewarded them with after the game.
Rest up, guys. There's still seven weeks to go and it's not going to get any easier.
Stevan Ridley (RB) – After clammoring for weeks, Patriots fans finally saw the dedication to the ground game with Stevan Ridley that they had been asking for. The result was nothing short of dominant, with Ridley rushing for 115 yard and two touchdowns. Even Bill Belichick excused Ridley for his third quarter fumble, as it was the result of a chaotic play and not due to poor ball security.
Tom Brady (QB) – For the second time this season, Brady looked like Brady. The first time, was the final seventy seconds of the New Orleans game. This time, however, Brady looked great for the entire game. He simply cut apart the Pittsburgh defense and made some tremendous throws that had me shaking my head, wondering how that level of accuracy was possible. And for the first time in I can't remember how long, he connected on a long bomb, with Dobson going 81 yards down the sideline to paydirt.
Aaron Dobson (WR) – In the off-season, it looked like Kenbrell Thompkins and even Josh Boyce may have had a developmental leg up on the 2nd round pick, Dobson. Last Sunday, those other two rookies were healthy scratches, while it was Dobson clearly coming into his own with two touchdown catches, and nearly as many yards and Amendola and Edelman combined.
Rob Gronkowski (TE) – It's been a long time since we've seen "The Incredible Gronk" streaking down the sidelines, with defenders bouncing off him. It was amazing to see it again. Beyond his team high 143 yard on nine catches and ten targets, simply having Gronk on the field opened up the rest of the field for the offense. His impact on the game simply can't be understated. Stay healthy, Gronk.
Marcus Cannon (OT) – Thrust into the starting role with Vollmer sidelined, Cannon didn't miss a beat.
Kyle Arrington (DB) – It's hard to put anyone on this list after such a great game. However, Arrington proved once again why he is better served as a slot corner and not on the outside. To be fair, he is what he is at this point and has been thrust outside his comfort zone with the Talib injury. Hopefully, after the bye week, he can stay in the slot, where he's been solid.