The New England Patriots began their 2019 season in dominant fashion. On the night in which New England unveiled its sixth NFL championship banner, the defending Super Bowl Champions proved that they are every bit as formidable as advertised. The Pats were solid in all three phases of the game, in a 33-3 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Sunday.
Despite many envious prognostications of his age finally getting the best of him, quarterback Tom Brady turned in a standout performance. New England’s ageless signal-caller passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Two of Brady’s touchdown strikes were thrown to Phillip Dorsett, including a 58-yard score. Wideout Josh Gordon caught Brady’s first scoring pass of the game, as well as the season. Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman caught six passes for 83 yards and also completed a throw to running back James White to help the Patriots begin their quest for back-to-back titles. Coincidentally, New England was the last team to repeat as champions, doing so iin 2003 and 2004.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The Patriots appeared to be playing this game with a sense of unfinished business. Pittsburgh was indeed the last team to beat the Patriots, in a 17-10 loss for the Pats on December 16, 2018 at Heinz Field. However, the Patriots left little-to-no doubt on who would be victorious in this contest, from the very beginning. New England opened a 20-0 lead before Pittsburgh kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with 10:17 left in the third quarter. On the very next drive, Brady responded with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Dorsett, taking a 27-3 lead. Dorsett finished the game with four catches for 95 yards and the first multi-score game of his career.
As impressive as they were on offense, the Pats were equally (if not more) impressive on the defensive side of the ball. Despite completing 27 of 47 passes for 277 yards, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked to be out of his element on Sunday The Patriots secondary was led by solid efforts from cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Johnathan Jones, and safety Devin McCourty. New England’s linebacking corps also turned in a solid effort, despite missing usual starter, Kyle Van Noy, who was absent due to the birth of his child.
As a result, the Steelers offense was largely silent, with much of their production coming on non-scoring drives. New England’s defense stifled the Steelers. In the first half, Pittsburgh managed only five full possessions. They punted on four of them, going three-and-out three times. James Conner ran for only 21 yards on 10 carries, as the Pats defensive line held the Steelers to only 32 yards rushing, in total. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six passes for 78 yards. However, 26 of those yards came on one throw in the final six minutes with the Steelers already trailing 33-3. Rather than pad their point total, the drive ended when Roethlisberger’s pass into the end zone (from the 41-yard line) was intercepted by Devin McCourty.
Though he will not officially join the team until Monday, wide receiver Antonio Brown was very much on the minds of the Foxboro Faithful. Brown, who asked for and was granted his release by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday morning, agreed to terms with the Patriots in the afternoon. Per league regulations, he was not yet eligible to play on Sunday.
On Monday, the Patriots are expected to announce a one-year, $15 million deal with Brown, which will include a $9 million signing-bonus for the four-time All-Pro. Despite the impending news, head coach Bill Belichick declined to comment on Brown during his postgame press conference.
AND THEN THERE WERE SIX
Prior to the game, the team unveiled their sixth championship banner, in a ceremony that included fireworks and a highlight video projected onto a screen covering much of the field.
Patriots legends Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Rob Ninkovich and Martellus Bennett brought out the first five Lombardi Trophies. Owner Robert Kraft carried the sixth, receiving a loud cheer from the fans. Recently retired tight-end, Rob Gronkowski emerged to a loud ovation, as well. Gronkowski promptly spiked a football, which signaled the reveal of the team’s newest addition to the Gillette Stadium facade, while House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ blared from the sound system,
Patriots Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon left the game in the second half with shoulder injury. Cannon had been on the ground, seemingly in significant pain, before being attended to in the blue medical tent on the sidelines. He did not return.
On Sunday, September 15, the Patriots will visit Miami, Florida for a showdown with the Dolphins and former Pats defensive coordinator, turned current Miami head coach, Brian Flores.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC