FOXBORO, Mass. -- The mocking chant resonated through Gillette Stadium as New England was icing its season-opening victory against Pittsburgh.
"Where is Roger???" the crowd of 66,829 merrily roared midway through the fourth quarter while clapping to the cadence in a chilly rain.
"Roger" -- as in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- probably was watching New England's 28-21 triumph from home. Even though he had attended every season-opening game since becoming NFL commissioner in 2006, Goodell skipped the Patriots-Steelers contest following the aftermath of the "Deflategate" controversy.
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This was a prudent decision -- and not just because Goodell would need a presidential-like security detail to shield himself from verbal abuse and insure any maniacal Patriots supporters didn't cross the line with a physical assault.
If Goodell had his way, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wouldn't have gotten the chance to toss four touchdown passes against the Steelers in what was admittedly an emotional outing for him considering all that has transpired since being accused of orchestrating the illegal doctoring of footballs in last January's AFC Championship game against Indianapolis. Brady, too, would have spent his Thursday night elsewhere serving the first of what was originally a four-game suspension until the punishment was overturned last week by a district court judge.
Goodell has become Alex Rodriguez, Peyton Manning and Ulf Samuelsson rolled into one on the hate scale for Boston sports fans. Goodell wasn't wanted or welcome as the Patriots unveiled their Super Bowl 49 banner. He knew it. While he has every right to attend the game as commissioner, Goodell would have been the equivalent of a party-crasher who drew the spotlight away from the host who had every reason to celebrate.
Still, it was a shame television cameras didn't have the chance to capture the expression on Goodell's face as another Patriots-related controversy unfolded.
The latest issue: Pittsburgh's sideline headsets malfunctioned in the first quarter. Communication was hindered as audio from the Patriots radio broadcast bled into the ears of Steelers coaches.
The NFL issued a statement early Friday morning blaming the interference on "a stadium power infrastructure issue, which was exacerbated by the inclement weather."
"The coaches' communications equipment, including the headsets, is provided by the NFL for both clubs use on game day," the statement continued. "Once the power issue was addressed, the equipment functioned properly with no additional issues."
Not exactly. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said his team also "had a lot of problems" throughout the game and was forced to switch headphones "a couple times." Belichick said the Patriots almost had to change Brady's helmet because of difficulties relaying plays.
"The communication system wasn't very good," Belichick said. "We deal with that, it seems like, weekly."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, though, is dubious -- and it's hard to blame him. Earlier this week, ESPN and Sports Illustrated both printed stories detailing accusations levied against the Patriots beyond the football inflation issue. Among them were headsets that had a longstanding tendency to fail for visiting teams.
Asked about Thursday night's malfunction, Tomlin icily replied, "That's always the case."
Whether intentional or not, the breakdown will continue to fuel the perception that New England cheats to win. But just like underinflated footballs weren't the reason the Patriots crushed the Colts in the AFC title game, shoddy headsets don't explain why Pittsburgh fell to New England.
The Steelers have themselves to blame for being unable to cover Rob Gronkowski, who caught three touchdown passes and helped set up a fourth by drawing coverage away from fellow tight end Scott Chandler. Pittsburgh couldn't disrupt Brady, who at one point completed a personal-best 19 straight passes en route to a 25-of-32, 288-yard performance.
Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley made two poor play-calls inside Patriots territory that he would love to have back. There were several ill-timed penalties. And two first-half scoring chances were squandered when newcomer Josh Scobee missed field goals of 44 and 46 yards.
"That's on us," said Steelers safety Robert Golden, a new starter in a Pittsburgh secondary that struggled throughout the preseason. "We have got to be able to execute a little better."
Pittsburgh's defense should have known it was in for a long night when Brady took the field about 45 minutes before kickoff. He ran the length of the field pumping his fist to chants of "Brady!" as some Jay-Z blared from the stadium speakers.
The fact he was able to play after beating the NFL in court -- and having his name dragged through the mud in the process -- wasn't the only emotional moment in what Brady described as a "pretty special night." There was the unveiling of New England's fourth Super Bowl banner in a pregame celebration featuring two hip-hop songs that reflect the franchise's feelings toward its detractors: "All I Do Is Win" by T-Pain and "Hate Me Now" by Nas.
Brady then made some more history with his 161th career victory for the Patriots, breaking the NFL record for a quarterback with one team previously held by Brett Favre during his days in Green Bay.
"Coach (Belichick) says we have one week to put everything we can into one three-hour performance," Brady said. "There was a big build-up. We had nine different review sessions to go over and cover everything. (The Steelers) did a lot of things we didn't expect or work on. We tried to make adjustments. That's how opening week typically goes."
Belichick's assessment that his team "certainly wasn't perfect" is accurate. The Patriots surrendered 127 rushing yards to DeAngelo Williams, who started for Pittsburgh because Le'Veon Bell is serving a drug suspension. The secondary was shaky with Super Bowl 49 hero Malcolm Butler struggling to contain Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (nine catches for 133 yards). New England had more different personnel groupings as well, especially ones involving rookies, as Belichick tried to keep players fresh and figure out which can help him as the season unfolds.
"It was good enough and we'll take that," he said.
It's far too early to assume that New England will be playing for another Lombardi Trophy in February based solely upon Thursday's outcome. Brady pointed out that the Patriots began last season 0-1 before getting their act together.
New England did show the early makings of being able to mount another championship run. Should that happen, Goodell will have no choice but to see the Patriots in person at least once this season.
After all, he's not going to skip Super Bowl 50.