Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Tom Brady snapped out of a recent funk in a big way, amassing 432 passing yards and four touchdowns to lead the New England Patriots to a 55-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium.
Coming off a four-game stretch in which he managed just two touchdowns and tossed four interceptions, Brady completed 23-of-33 attempts in directing a Patriots offense that piled up a season-best 610 total yards and produced the highest point total the Steelers have ever allowed in a single game.
Three New England receivers each eclipsed the 100-yard mark to help the Patriots (7-2) move to 5-0 at home this season. Rob Gronkowski garnered a career-high nine receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown, Aaron Dobson had two scores on a five-catch, 130-yard effort and Danny Amendola totaled 122 yards and a touchdown on four grabs.
"It felt great out there," Gronkowski said. "It was important for us to play this way. Until now, we hadn't been clicking for all four quarters."
Stevan Ridley added a pair of rushing touchdowns while compiling 115 yards on 26 carries.
Ben Roethlisberger had a big day as well for the struggling Steelers (2-6), throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns on 28-of-48 passing with two interceptions. Jerricho Cotchery was on the receiving end of three of those scores while making seven catches for 96 yards, and Emmanuel Sanders finished with 98 yards on six receptions.
"We are going to comb through this with a fine-tooth comb," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "and those people who are lacking effort won't be playing. It's just that simple."
Pittsburgh gamely battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit, with Cotchery's second TD grab of the night forging a 24-24 deadlock with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter. Brady got the Patriots' offense rolling again, however, to send his team back in front to stay.
The two-time league MVP engineered an 11-play, 60-yard drive, highlighted by a 21-yard delivery to Amendola that put the ball at the Pittsburgh 12. A third- down sack by Jason Worilds relegated New England to attempting a 32-yard field goal, which Stephen Gostkowski knocked through for the go-ahead points 2:39 prior to the start of the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh's next two possessions resulted in punts, on the first of which Julian Edelman weaved his way for a 43-yard return to the opposing 34-yard line. Brady kept the drive alive with a 10-yard completion to Dobson on 3rd- and-6, then targeted the rookie with a back-shoulder throw two plays later for a 17-yard score and a 34-24 lead.
A pass interference call on the Steelers' William Gay during New England's subsequent series helped lead to another touchdown. Ridley capped the march with three straight runs, the final one a 5-yard burst into the end zone that lengthened the margin to 17 points with 9:16 left to play.
Roethlisberger orchestrated a 10-play, 80-yard trek to attempt to get Pittsburgh back in striking distance, with Cotchery's 6-yard touchdown trimming the lead to 41-31 with 6:15 remaining. Brady put the game all but out of reach a minute afterward, however, hitting Dobson in stride on a deep ball as the Steelers blew a coverage for an 81-yard score.
The Patriots tacked on one more touchdown for good measure. Duron Harmon intercepted Roethlisberger and raced 42 yards before being brought down at the Pittsburgh 28, with LeGarette Blount punching it in with a 5-yard run two snaps afterward to complete the scoring.
Pittsburgh's defense did come up with a goal-line stand late in the first quarter to keep the game scoreless, but failed to prevent Brady and company from putting up points on New England's next four drives as the Patriots built a comfortable 24-10 halftime lead.
Roethlisberger was picked off by Devin McCourty shortly after the Steelers' defensive stop, and Brady hit a wide-open Amendola for a 34-yard touchdown on the very next play to send New England in front with four minutes left in the opening period.
After stuffing Le'Veon Bell for a loss on 4th-and-1 to take over at their own 33, the Patriots needed only six plays and just over two minutes to reach the end zone again. Brady and Gronkowski teamed up for a 13-yard gain to place New England back in the red zone, then split the Steelers' secondary for a 19-yard touchdown for a 14-0 advantage early in the second quarter.
A 42-yard bomb from Roethlisberger to Sanders on the ensuing series helped get Pittsburgh on the board via Shaun Suisham's 30-yard field goal, but Brady's strike to an uncovered Amendola that resulted in a 57-yard gain on New England's next offensive trip gave the Pats another 1st-and-goal. They wound up settling for Gostkowski's 20-yard field goal and a 17-3 cushion after Cameron Heyward's sack of Brady helped bring on the kick.
The Steelers responded by churning out 71 yards in just four plays to close the gap. Following Jonathan Dwyer's 30-yard scamper into New England territory, Antonio Brown beat one-on-one coverage to haul in Roethlisberger's 27-yard touchdown heave with 1:55 to go in the half.
That was just enough time for the Patriots to strike again. A nine-play, 77- yard sequence that was extended by Dobson's 16-yard grab on third down ended in Ridley powering over the goal line from a yard out with 10 seconds to spare on the clock.
New England piled up 318 yards over the first two quarters, with Brady going a sharp 13-of-18 for 252 yards and Gronkowski amassing 119 yards on seven receptions.
The Steelers were able to inch closer by capitalizing on a Ridley fumble on the initial drive of the second half. Taking over at the Patriots' 36, Roethlisberger cut the deficit to 24-17 by stepping up in the pocket on 3rd- and-11 and firing a bullet that Cotchery snared for a 20-yard touchdown.
Pittsburgh then quickly induced a three-and-out and regained the ball near midfield following Brown's 24-yard punt return. A 25-yard run by Bell moved the Steelers back in scoring range, and Roethlisberger and Cotchery combined once more on a touchdown on third down, this time from eight yards away to even the game at 24-24.
Brady's 432 yards were the third-most of his career, while he delivered his 37th game with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions, breaking a tie with Brett Favre for second place on the NFL's all-time list in that category. He also passed Hall of Famer Warren Moon for sixth place in league history for completions (3,992) ... Roethlisberger's TD pass to Brown was the 200th of his career ... Defensive end Rob Ninkovich (foot), safety Steve Gregory (thumb) and wideout Austin Collie (knee) all left the game with injuries for New England ... The Steelers dropped to 2-6 for the first time since 2006 and have now been outscored 61-19 in the first quarter this season.