The old guy is about to get more help.
Such that he needs it.
It’s hard to imagine the Patriots playing any better offensively, but that possibility is before them when wide receiver Antonio Brown officially joins the team tomorrow.
Tom Brady and the Patriots cruised to a 33-3 win over the Steelers, passing the ball efficiently throughout the night.
They actually opened the game appearing interested in running the ball, but that quickly faded.
Brady was 24-of-36 for 341 yards and three touchdowns. The 42-year-old also hit a number of chunk plays throughout the game, even when it was comfortably in hand (which was, oh, about halftime).
Phillip Dorsett had a pair of long touchdowns (25 and 58 yards), and he’s likely the odd man out when Brown joins. Josh Gordon had their first touchdown of the night and a 44-yard reception later, and Julian Edelman‘s going to continue to do Julian Edelman things (like his 32-yard pass and catching tipped balls in stride across the middle) no matter who signs.
It’s a talented group, and indicative of the way the Patriots continue to win. They seem to change personnel and schemes annually, proving their enormous advantage at the two most important spots on the field (quarterback and coach).
And you get the sense because of the respect those two carry —and performances like Sunday — Brown likely won’t make such a big deal about some of the issues that bugged him so while he was working his way out of Oakland.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. The Steelers didn’t do much offensively, in part because of their own issues.
But Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore had a lot to do with it as well.
The Patriots put their top cover guy on Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster; in the slot, outside, wherever. And it took Smith-Schuster a long time to shake free. He had a 19-yarder late in the first half for his second reception, which was the only pass play of more than 9 yards the Steelers were able to register in the first 30 minutes.
Without him making plays, the Steelers stalled.
After ridding themselves of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers projected confidence in the replacements. And while James Conner had his moments last year and they hope James Washington grows into a productive target, they’re clearly not ready to continue as the Steelers had. But to put it all on them would be wrong, because of the work Gilmore did.
Gilmore is not a flashy player, actually exceedingly normal. That seems old-fashioned, but he is able to change a game on his own, and clearly has the trust of Bill Belichick.
2. The Steelers played this one (excessively) conservatively throughout the night, with the tone set in the second quarter.
Trailing 10-0, they elected to punt on a fourth-and-1 from their own 30 yard line. While not converting would have been a field-position disaster, they have a 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback. Those are the kind of people you put behind the center, and let them lean forward for what should be an easy first down.
Then in the third quarter, trailing 20-0, they elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Patriots’ 1.
Again, coming away from their first promising drive of the night with no points would have been hard to swallow, cutting the lead to 17 did them no favors.
3. Patriots safety Patrick Chung was indicted on cocaine possession charges in August, and hasn’t commented about the case since pleading not guilty.
That’s apparently not an issue for the Patriots.
Chung started, so there wasn’t even a token benching. He gave it the Belichick “on to Cincinnati” treatment when asked during the preseason, and apparently that’s the end of it as far as the team’s concerned.
4. If nothing else, Ryan Izzo is the answer to a trivia question.
The Patriots tight end was the guy to replace Rob Gronkowski in the starting lineup.
The 2018 seventh-rounder spent last year on IR.
He had one catch for 3 yards against the Steelers, which leaves him 520 catches and 7,858 yards short of the guy he replaced.
Izzo may never have much of a role in the offense, as they have enough talent at receiver soon to make any production from their tight ends a luxury. But the kid needs to have a good spike ready in case (or, who are we kidding, whenever) he scores.
5. The Steelers had bigger problems, but they had to start one of the eight former AAF players who made initial rosters in the NFL.
Kelly was in camp with the Cowboys last year, and spent part of the spring with the San Diego Fleet (before they sunk, along with the rest of the league).