Brady follows 'Deflategate' saga with statement victory

By Frank Pingue

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - Tom Brady may not have admitted to using the "Deflategate" scandal as motivation but he sure looked like a man on a mission while leading the New England Patriots to a NFL season-opening victory on Thursday.

Brady, whose entire offseason was spent dealing with fallout from accusations that he knew of a scheme to deflate footballs, looked sharp as he threw four touchdown passes in New England's 28-21 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

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"It was a pretty special night so I was excited. Our whole team was excited," Brady, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 288 yards, told reporters.

"It is always fun getting out there and getting the opportunity to go play and we took advantage of it, it was a good win, I thought our guys played hard."

The game, played in constant rain, was one of the most hotly-anticipated starts of Brady's glittering career as it came one week after a federal judge overturned an NFL-imposed four-game ban for his alleged role in "Deflategate."

Following some pre-game fireworks, a video presentation punctuated by music and the unveiling of the Patriots' fourth Super Bowl banner, this one commemorating last season's championship, Brady got right to work.

On New England's opening possession, Brady came out firing and completed his first three passes to get the Patriots into Pittsburgh territory. He then threw pair of incomplete passes and was sacked, forcing the Patriots to punt.

Brady eventually opened the scoring early in the second quarter when he capped a 13-play, 90-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. On the scoring drive, Brady completed all seven of his passes for 65 yards.

Fans later erupted in chants of "Brady, Brady" when the quarterback snuck the ball up the middle for a first down late in the second. Two plays later Brady tossed another touchdown pass to Gronkowski as the Patriots went ahead 14-0.

Brady also connected with Scott Chandler at the end of an another impressive 80-yard drive to give the Patriots a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter.

At one point during the game, the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer flashed his mid-season form as he completed a franchise record 19 consecutive pass attempts.

"He was an unbelievable performer tonight," Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught his third touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, said of Brady.

"He's our leader. He's just a great player and it's fun playing with him."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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