FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady, playing his best game of the season, threw four touchdown passes and the New England Patriots failed to hold a 14-point third-quarter lead but ran away with a 55-31 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The Patriots, who piled up 610 yards in the game (third-most in team history), scored 31 points in an 11:50 span to blow open a tie game.
Brady, throwing for 400 yards for the fifth time in his Hall of Fame career and taking over sixth place on the NFL’s all-time completion list and seventh in passing yards, hit rookie Aaron Dobson with two touchdown passes, including an 81-yard bomb in the fourth quarter. He also threw TDs to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski as New England (7-2) won for the third time in four games.
It’s no mystery why Brady’s best game came in Week 9. This was the second week that he had Gronkowski and Amendola together on the field — and the pair dominated. Gronkowski caught a career-high nine passes for 143 yards and Amendola had four grabs for 122.
The Patriots started the second half of the season as they normally do — with a win. They were 23-1 the last three second halves and have won seven straight November games.
The Steelers fell to 2-6.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes to Jerricho Cotchery, two coming less than four minutes apart in the third quarter to tie the game 24-24.
The Patriots went ahead on Stephen Gostkowski’s second field goal of the day and Julian Edelman’s 43-yard punt return set the stage for a 17-yard scoring pass to Dobson. Stevan Ridley, who lost a fumble but ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns, scored from five yards out with 9:16 left. LeGarrette Blount powered in from five yards out to close the scoring.
New England ran for 197 yards and are 6-0 when gaining at least 100. Brady, who also had his 55th 300-yard game, finished 23-for-33 for 432 yards. Roethlisberger was 28-for-48 for 400 yards, four TDs and two interceptions.
Cotchery caught seven passes for 96 yards.
Brady hit a wide-open Amendola for a 34-yard touchdown and Gronkowski for a 19-yard scored to put New England up 14-0 5:30 into the second quarter. The teams then traded field goals before Ridley went in from a yard out to make it 24-10 with 10 seconds left in the half.
NOTES: Red Sox owner John Henry and 10 players were honored before the game, pitcher Jon Lester carrying the World Series trophy. … Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich, whose first-half sack forced a fumble, went to the locker room in the third quarter with a foot injury, S Steve Gregory (thumb) and WR Austin Collie also left. … Steelers LB Vince Williams and CB Ike Taylor left with concussions, OT Marcus Gilbert with an ankle injury. … TE Gronkowski’s third catch of four, a 27-yarder, on a first-quarter drive was the 200th reception of his career. He also notched his 11th 100-yard game, a club record at the position. Amendola had 100 yards for the fourth time, Dobson for the first. Gronkowski left with an injury, but only for six plays. … Rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins, who had 23 catches in the first seven games but none last week, was a surprise New England scratch, with CB Aqib Talib missing his third straight game with a hip injury. … Pittsburgh G David DeCastro was out with an ankle injury. … The Patriots placed DT Tommy Kelly (knee) on season-ending injured reserve after he apparently was re-injured in practice during the week. … DT Isaac Sopoaga, acquired from the Eagles, made his Patriots debut. … The Steelers play the next two games at home, with Buffalo visiting next week. New England is off.