Final, 55-31 Patriots: The Steelers turned it over on downs, the Pats took a knee, and that’s it from Foxboro.
Kind of a strange game, but the end result is ideal for the Patriots, who head into their bye week with a 7-2 record.
Fourth quarter, 2:41, 55-31: LeGarrette Blount has been completely impossible to tackle this half, and he once again ran through three Steelers to cap off that short touchdown drive and stretch the score to 55-31.
That’s the most points Pittsburgh has allowed … ever. What a game from the Patriots.
Fourth quarter, 3:19, 48-31 Patriots: It’s a party at Gillette now, as Andre Carter comes up with a sack and Duron Harmon picks off another Roethlisberger pass.
Harmon returned it all the way back to the Pittsburgh 28-yard line, giving the Pats a chance to go over the 50-point threshold.
Fourth quarter, 5:15, 48-31 Patriots: Well, that’s one way to put a game away.
Following a LeGarrette Blount first-down run, the Steelers were probably expecting another run on second down. Instead, Aaron Dobson took off up the left sideline and burned past everybody. Brady lobbed a long bomb, and Dobson made the catch just past midfield and ran the rest of the way for an 81-yard touchdown.
Fourth quarter, 6:15, 41-31 Patriots: The Patriots were willing to give up yards on that drive, so long as it took several minutes off the clock, and with the hope that they’d be able to come up with a stop in the red zone to turn the ball over to seal the game.
They succeeded on the clock endeavor, but they couldn’t come up with the big stop, with Jerricho Cotchery catching his third touchdown of the night to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
Fourth quarter, 9:16, 41-24 Patriots: Stevan Ridley nearly did it all himself on that drive, picking up 31 yards on six carries, including a five-yard touchdown run to stretch that lead to 41-24. Ridley now has 115 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Gronkowski also came up huge on third down, dragging a defender past the sticks to keep the drive alive at the Pittsburgh 19-yard line.
There’s still plenty of time left in this one, and nothing’s over until it’s over, but it would take a near miracle for the Steelers to climb back from this deficit.
Fourth quarter, 12:44, 34-24 Patriots: When you get a hold of Ben Roethlisberger, you better hold on for dear life, because he’s a big man who can escape. Dane Fletcher didn’t let go on this third down, eventually bringing down Roethlisberger with the Patriots’ fourth sack of the night.
The Steelers had to punt, which means if the Pats can put together a 61-yard touchdown drive, they’ll essentially put this one out of reach.
Fourth quarter, 13:46, 34-24 Patriots: Welcome to the highlight reel, Aaron Dobson.
The rookie receiver has gotten a lot of looks from Brady today, and Dobson just came down with a one-handed grab while spinning around at the front left corner of the end zone.
The 17-yard touchdown pass capped off a five-play, 34-yard touchdown drive for the Patriots, who stretched that lead back to 10 points.
The play was reviewed, but it was clear that Dobson’s foot, elbow and hip all hit the ground before he went out of bounds. It was upheld after a lengthy review.
End of third quarter, 27-24 Patriots: For the first time in the third quarter, the Patriots’ D was able to come up with a stop and force a punt, giving Julian Edelman an opportunity. And he sure made the most of it.
Edelman caught McBriar’s punt at the New England 24-yard line, and Edelman took off with a full head of steam right up the middle of the field, breaking a tackle and taking it all the way to the Pittsburgh 34-yard line.
Blount took a handoff on first down and picked up four yards, and that was the final play of the third quarter.
Third quarter, 2:39, 27-24 Patriots: The Patriots got the lead back, but not in the way they’d like.
After an outstanding leaping catch by Amendola got the Patriots inside the red zone, Brady was sacked on a third down from the Steelers’ 5-yard line. That forced the Patriots to kick a field goal, which Gostkowski made, to take a 27-24 lead.
Rob Gronkowski gave everyone a scare when he limped off the field after taking a hit to the thigh from Ryan Clark. But Gronk appeared to work it out on the sidelines and ended up returning to the game.
Stevan Ridley also had some notably strong runs on the drive, as Belichick elected not to bench the running back for this week’s fumble.
The team also announced that Gregory is questionable to return with a thumb injury.
Third quarter, 7:10, 24-24: And we have outselves a tie game.
Steve Gregory left the field with what looked to be a wrist injury, and three plays later, Roethlisberger picked on rookie cornerback Logan Ryan for his third touchdown of the evening, this one again to Cotchery.
This game has taken on the opposite feel of last week, when the Patriots had all their struggles in the first half but came back with a strong second half. So far, it’s 14-0 Steelers in the second half today.
Third quarter, 9:42, 24-17 Patriots: The Patriots elected to try a deep pass along the right sideline on third-and-2, and Brady’s back-shoulder pass falls to the turf. It’s a three-and-out for the Patriots, and a big 24-yard Antonio Brown return will have the Steelers taking over on the New England side of the field. A touchdown here ties the game.
The Patriots announced that Rob Ninkovich is questionable to return with a foot injury.
Third quarter, 11:02, 24-17 Patriots: The Steelers didn’t waste much time in turning that fumble into points, and they made it count. Ben Roethlisberger maneuvered in the pocket before hitting Jerricho Cotchery deep over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Rob Ninkovich was also hurt on that drive, a situation that bears close watching for the Patriots.
Third quarter, 12:56, 24-10 Patriots: The fumble is confirmed via replay, and the Steelers force a big turnover to start the second half.
Third quarter, 12:56, 24-10 Patriots: On a first-and-10 from the 35, Brady was pressured and threw to Stevan Ridley on the right sideline. As Ridley made the catch, Polamalu came flying into him, ripping the ball loose.
It didn’t appear that Ridley ever had possession, but the ruling on the field was a fumble. The play is now under review. These are difficult to overturn, but I don’t think Ridley ever had possession.
Third quarter, 14:55, 14:55, 24-10 Patriots: LeGarrette Blount had a nice return out past the 30, but it came back due to holding. It’s first-and-10 for New England from their own 10-yard line.
Halftime, 24-10 Patriots: Thanks to a pass interference call on Troy Polamalu that gave the Patriots 15 yards, and thanks to another pass interference penalty on Shamarko Thomas that set up the Patriots on the goal line, New England was able to get the ball into the end zone before halftime.
The drive was capped off by a 1-yard plunge from Stevan Ridley. Aaron Dobson came up with a strong catch-and-run for 16 yards on a third-and-4 to keep the drive alive near midfield as well.
The Steelers took a knee after the kickoff to bring the first half to a close. The Pats will receive to begin the third quarter.
Second quarter, 1:55, 17-10 Patriots: The Steelers had a first-and-10 from the New England 27-yard line coming out of the two-minute warning, and they picked it all up with one play. Roethlisberger lofted a pass to the right side of the end zone, where Antonio Brown was able to get past Alfonzo Dennard and haul in the touchdown.
The big play on that drive came on a pretty simple one, when Jonathan Dwyer simply broke free for a 30-yard run.
Second quarter, 3:51, 17-3 Patriots: A Cameron Hayward sack on second down pushed the Pats back eight yards and killed New England’s touchdown hopes, but Stephen Gostkowski came on for a chip shot 20-yarder to extend the New England lead to 17-3.
The Amendola 57-yarder, as well as a nine-yard pickup by Gronkowski on a third-and-6, made that scoring drive possible.
Second quarter, 5:48, 14-3 Patriots: Danny Amendola was once again left completely open, running free across the field. With plenty of time in the pocket, Brady eventually found Amendola and connected with him for a huge 57-yard catch-and-run.
The Steelers might want to pay some more attention to No. 80.
Second quarter, 7:36, 14-3 Patriots: Kyle Arrington got burned by Emmanuel Sanders up the left sideline for a 42-yard catch-and-run on Pittsburgh’s second play of the drive. Antonio Brown then picked up 17 yards, and though the drive stalled once it reached the red zone, Shane Suisham kicked a 30-yard field goal to get the Steelers on the board.
Second quarter, 10:30, 14-0 Patriots: There are very few men in the world who possess Rob Gronkowski’s size and talent, and there might not be anyone else on the planet who could have caught the ball that Gronk just did for a touchdown.
Gronk outjumped Jarvis Jones, who was comically in coverage on the big tight end, and made the catch, absorbing a shot to the face by Troy Polamalu after hauling it in. He came down with it though and finally unleashed a spike that counts.
Second quarter, 12:36, 7-0 Patriots: Bell may have been the beneficiary of a questionable spot on the previous fourth-down attempt, but not this time. Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher and a whole host of Patriots greeted Bell in the backfield for a loss on this fourth-down attempt, and the Patriots take over at their own 32-yard line.
Second quarter, 12:42, 7-0 Patriots: It’ll be another fourth-and-inches for the Steelers on the other side of this timeout. This one comes at the New England 32-yard line.
Second quarter, 14:40, 7-0 Patriots: Bell picked up just enough on fourth-and-inches to keep this drive alive for the Steelers.
End of first quarter, 7-0 Patriots: The Steelers faced a third-and-30 in the closing seconds of the first quarter, and a screen pass to Le’Veon Bell nearly picked up the first down. The running back was taken down a few inches shy of the first-down marker, and when the second quarter begins, the Steelers will have the option of trying to pin the Patriots deep with a punt or going for it on fourth down.
First quarter, 4:00, 7-0 Patriots: We’re not even a full quarter into the football game, and the Pats have forced two turnovers.
This one came after a false start set the Steelers back a half-yard, and with Brandon Spikes pressuring Roethlisberger, the QB threw up a prayer. Devin McCourty played center field and came down with an interception.
On the very next play, Brady patiently stood in the pocket before looking to his left and seeing a wide open Danny Amendola running up the seam. Brady delivered a strike, and Amendola made the catch and ran it in for a 34-yard touchdown.
First quarter, 4:17, 7-0 Patriots: Facing a third-and-15 from his own 29-yard line, Tom Brady delivered a bullet to Rob Gronkowski, hitting the big tight end in stride for a huge gain of 37 yards. Brady went back to Gronkowski on the next play for a gain of 27, and just like that, the Patriots were in business.
On third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Brady hit Gronkowski right at the goal line, but he was ruled down about a foot short of the end zone.
Rather than challenge the spot, the Patriots rushed to the line, and Brandon Bolden was able to get the ball into the end zone, despite Troy Polamalu jumping offside. However, after review, Bolden was ruled down shy of the end zone, so the offsides penalty went into effect.
The Patriots faced a fourth-and-goal from about an inch out of the end zone, and Ridley was stopped for a loss of a yard, turning the ball over and keeping the game scoreless.
First quarter, 8:07, 0-0: The Pats’ D forces a three-and-out on Pittsburgh’s second possession, thanks to some sure tackling by Steve Gregory on Le’Veon Bell to keep the running back short of the sticks on a third-and-6 dump-off.
First quarter, 10:20, 0-0: The Pats can’t really do much of anything after forcing the turnover, as they went three-and-out before Ryan Allen sent a punt into the end zone for a touchback.
Of note: Stevan Ridley got the start at running back and he was handed the ball on the first play. After we didn’t see him until the second quarter last week (for mysterious, unknown reasons), that’s significant.
First quarter, 12:00, 0-0: Things started a bit ominously for the Patriots, but that changed rather quickly thanks to Rob Ninkovich.
On third-and-2 on the New England 36-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger stood still in the pocket and had nowhere to throw. Ninkovich was able to get to the quarterback and strip the ball, and Joe Vellano recovered. That’s a huge swing play, and it was made possible by Brandon Spikes stuffing a run at the line of scrimmage on second-and-2.
First quarter, 15:00: Stephen Gostkowski’s kick is returned all the way back to the 41-yard line by Felix Jones, and this game is under way, with the Steelers in great field position to start things off.
4:23 p.m.: The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive.
4:19 p.m.: Kickoff is just five minutes away, but it won’t come until the home crowd gets to cheer for the world champion Boston Red Sox.
3:12 p.m.: Aqib Talib will not be playing today, which isn’t surprising news. What is surprising news is that Kenbrell Thompkins will not be playing either.
Thompkins wasn’t listed on the injury report, so it’s unclear right now why he won’t be playing.
The complete list of Pats inactives is:
3 p.m.: Here are your inactives for the Steelers today:
1:30 p.m.: The chill of November is in the air today, meaning the Patriots and Steelers will have themselves some perfect football weather this afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Temperatures should dip into the 30s by the second half, a reminder that this NFL season is about to hit the home stretch.
For the Patriots, today marks the final game before the bye week, and there’s a lot on the line. Heading into the free weekend with a 7-2 record is worlds apart from being 6-3, and though the Steelers of 2013 are nowhere near the Super Bowl-caliber teams we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, nothing ever comes easy in this league. Today should be no exception.
As is their norm, the Patriots talked up the Steelers all week, praising how difficult it always is to play them. Troy Polamalu, as always, was a popular subject, but Bill Belichick and Tom Brady shared plenty of reasons why this game won’t be a picnic for the Patriots.
When the inactives are announced, I’ll have them here in the live blog. We know Tommy Kelly is certainly not active, as he was placed on season-ending injured reserve yesterday. That’s a tough one to swallow for a veteran like Kelly, and it furthers the lack of depth on the inside for the Patriots. Isaac Sopoaga will likely have to get in there today, whether he’s ready or not, and Belichick will have to get creative from here on out to avoid getting gashed up the middle.