Boy were the Patriots happy to have Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup. Gronkowski was forced to sit out Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins because of a suspension. The Patriots were lucky that suspension lasted only one game as Gronkowski carried the passing offense.
Gronkowski, for the second consecutive game that he has played in, was responsible for more than half of Tom Brady’s passing yards. Gronkowski caught nine passes for 168 yards and a two-point conversion. The Steelers had no answer for him working the middle of the field, especially with all-world linebacker Ryan Shazier sidelined because of a scary back/neck injury two weeks ago.
For the game, Brady completed 22-of-35 for 298 yards. He tossed one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice and hit six times. The Steelers used a lot more man coverage than they used to, and it looked to throw Brady out of rhythm at times. But he made plays when he needed to.
Brandin Cooks was the only other receiver to make a big impact. He caught four passes for 60 yards and caught Brady’s touchdown. No other player had more than 23 yards receiving or two receptions.
Kenny Britt, who was signed last week, was active and made one reception for seven yards. Chris Hogan was back on the sidelines this week. If he re-injured his shoulder, Britt could be in for an expanded role right away with the Patriots.