New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers match report: Tom Brady hails 'special' night but Mike Tomlin rages at headset controversy

New England Patriots 28 Pittsburgh Steelers 21

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The Independent Online

New England quarter-back Tom Brady put a tumultuous year behind him and opened the new NFL season in convincing style, throwing four touchdown passes as the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 on Thursday.

"It was a pretty special night," said Brady, who threw three of his four TDs to favorite target Rob Gronkowski. "I was excited, our whole team was excited. We haven't had one of these games in a long time."

With last season's deflated football scandal behind him, the star quarterback was back to his unstoppable self, going 25 of 32 for 288 yards.

"It's always fun being out there and getting an opportunity to go play," added Brady, whose 161 victories are tops for a starting quarterback with one team in NFL history. He set a team-record with 19 straight completions; and he had his 23rd game with four or more touchdown passes, third all-time along with Brett Favre.

 

Brady's four-game NFL suspension was overturned by a federal judge one week ago, allowing him to play in the season opener. He led drives of 90 and 64 yards for scores on passes to Gronkowski. Gronkowski also recovered a fumble by running back Dion Lewis at the Pittsburgh 1 before his final TD.

But Gronkowski, who finished with 94 yards, insisted this night was all about Brady.

"Everything he's been going through all off-season, he just came out and he was on fire," he said. "I don't know his stats or anything, but he was hitting all of the open guys, reading the defense well, calling the right plays."

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New England line up for the kick off against Pittsburgh Steelers

Brady also hit newcomer Scott Chandler for a 1-yard score to cap an 80-yard march with the second-half kickoff.

Only occasionally did the Steelers come close to clamping down on Brady, yielding 361 yards overall. Third-stringer Lewis rushed for 69 yards, and leading receiver Julian Edelman had 11 catches for 97 yards.

"We've got to finish a few instances better," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "I thought we got a little frazzled at times. Some of the young people have got to get better in a hurry."

Minus two key players on offense — running back Le'Veon Bell (suspended) and center Maurkice Pouncey (injured) — and without suspended receiver Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh moved the ball decently, gaining 464 yards. But it never really was close.

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New England fans show their support for quarter-back Tom Brady

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 351 yards and a late TD to Antonio Brown. Backup DeAngelo Williams rushed for 127 yards.

Tomlin was angry after the game, complaining that coaches couldn't communicate because they were hearing the Patriots radio broadcast over their headsets. Patriots coaches also complained about similar troubles. The league said it was a temporary problem caused in part by the weather.

Before kickoff, the Patriots unveiled their fourth NFL championship banner as owner Robert Kraft and former players Troy Brown, Willie McGinest and Ty Law carried out New England's four Super Bowl trophies.

AP

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