After squeaking by in close contests over the first half of the season, the New England Patriots (7-2) reminded us just how good their offense can be on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Tom Brady was on point and had his favorite targets—Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola—back healthy and at his disposal during the impressive 55-31 victory.
With these two top-tier weapons back on the field, Brady was virtually unstoppable. He completed 23 of 33 passing attempts for 432 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 151.8. This is only the second time this season that Brady was able to surpass the 100-plus passer rating mark. This time, however, he did so in impressive fashion.
What was most encouraging of his performance is that Brady spread the wealth around.
Three of his targets finished the game with over 100 receiving yards. Gronkowski caught nine passes for 143 yards and a score, rookie Aaron Dobson caught five passes for 130 yards and two scores, and Amendola hauled in four receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown.
In fact, the versatility of offensive weapons allowed for a healthy scratch of rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins for the game. This is the first time in 2013 in which the Patriots were afforded such a luxury.
Due to the high-octane passing attack, the running game was able to gain a head of steam as well. Led by Stevan Ridley—who rushed 26 times for 115 yards—New England finished the game with 197 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards per carry against a normally stout Pittsburgh defense.
This was the first time all season that Ridley eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a single game.
The balanced offensive attack—33 passes and 35 rushes—is something to be feared by all other 31 NFL teams. Taking on Brady, a future Hall of Famer, is a daunting task in itself—especially when he is so effective. But to prepare for a rushing attack that is now capable of around 200 yards on the ground ups the ante tremendously for opposing defenses.
Well, I’m not exactly sure how it all happened today; maybe we got our inspiration from the Red Sox, I’m not sure. It was certainly a big point output and that’s always good. I thought our guys played hard today. We had a few problems there but overall I thought we hung in there, made some plays in all three phases of the game, scored some points.
Brady was elated by the performance of his now-healthy team:
It feels good. They don’t always go like that. That was a fun day. It was good execution; I think for the most part, that was our best day of execution. You don’t wake up in the morning and think they’re going to be like that. That was pretty sweet.
To make matters worse for future opponents of the Patriots is the fact that versatile running back Shane Vereen is very close to getting back into the mix as well.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, Vereen returned to practice on Wednesday and could possibly return to game action in Week 11. His return is huge for the Patriots, as the rich get richer and Brady gets another dangerous weapon.
The Patriots have been revived at a perfect time.
New England has a bye during Week 10—great timing for a team that is just getting healthy again and is set to return during two straight prime-time matchups. The Pats will face the Carolina Panthers during Monday Night Football in Week 11, and then Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos during Sunday Night Football in Week 12.
After putting up 55 points and 610 total yards against the Steelers on Sunday, we have just begun to see what New England will be capable of for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Watch out, NFL. The Patriots are back.