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Steelers-Patriots: What we learned

The SportsXchange

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady has again showed the football world just how dangerous he can be when he has all his weapons.

Playing only his second game with both tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola on the field together, Brady turned in his best game of the season in destroying the Pittsburgh defense as the New England Patriots opened their second half with a 55-31 victory over the Steelers on Sunday.

"You don't wake up in the morning and think they're going to be like that. That was pretty sweet," Brady said after leading his team to 31 points in less than 12 minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters.

It hasn't been "like that" for Brady this season. He entered 2013 without favorite receiver Wes Welker, with tight end Aaron Hernandez in jail on murder charges and with Gronkowski rehabbing back and arm surgeries. Amendola, signed as a free agent to replace Welker, got hurt twice. He returned in the Oct. 27 win over Miami, a week after Gronkowski debuted.

On Sunday, it all came together, as the Steelers allowed the most points and most yards (610) the franchise has ever yielded in a game.

"When we're clicking we're clicking and it's awesome," said Gronkowski.

Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns and continued his move up the too-many-to-list NFL stats ladders ... and really looking like Brady for the first time.

In the previous four games, he failed to score a quarterback rating over 75. On Sunday, when he averaged 18.8 yards per completion, he had a 151.8.

The timing is probably not a coincidence.

"When Gronk plays like that and can produce like that and Danny does that and Aaron (Dobson) does that and the backs do that (197 yards rushing as a team, including 115 yards and two touchdowns by Stevan Ridley) and the line blocks, it's a good way to play football," Brady said.

Brady, throwing for 400 yards for the fifth time and taking over sixth place on the NFL's all-time completion list and seventh in passing yards, hit rookie Dobson with two touchdown passes, including an 81-yard bomb in the fourth quarter. He also threw TDs to Amendola and Gronkowski as New England (7-2) won for the third time in four games.

Gronkowski caught a career-high nine passes for 143 yards and Amendola had four grabs for 122.

The Patriots, who amassed their third-highest yards total ever, 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, who battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit to tie the game before the tidal wave hit, fell to 2-6, their worst start since 2006.

"It was something that in my 12 years has never happened here," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "I wish I could say what happened or what was the problem. We just got our butts kicked today."

What the Steelers said

"Not good enough, not good enough. We are going to comb through this with a fine tooth comb, as we should. And those people who are lacking effort won't be playing. It's just that simple." -- Head coach Mike Tomlin.

What the Patriots said

"At the bye week, 7-2's not bad. Hopefully our best football is ahead of us." -- QB Tom Brady, on his team.

What we learned about the Steelers

1. They have already allowed more rushing touchdowns this season (12) than they gave up last all year (9). They yielded three Sunday, which was one fewer than New England's touchdown pass total.

2. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who used to play with the Jets, in the same division as the Patriots, played his 15th career regular-season game against New England Sunday. He has 56 catches (seven Sunday) for 786 yards (96 Sunday) and eight touchdowns (three Sunday), but his teams are 5-10 against New England. "It's a good environment to play in," he said of Gillette Stadium. "They always bring out the best in you."

What we learned about the Patriots

1. When Tom Brady has a full arsenal, watch out. On Sunday, with Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola on the field together for the second time, Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns in leading his team to a 55-31 victory. "When Gronk plays like that and can produce like that and Danny does that and Aaron (Dobson, two TDs, one an 81-yarder) does that and the backs do that (197 yards rushing as a team; 115 yards and two touchdowns by Stevan Ridley) and the line blocks, it's a good way to play football," Brady said.

2. Don't mess with this team in the second half of the regular season. Sunday started the second half for New England and the Patriots were 23-1 in the three previous second halves and they have won seven straight in November.
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