The 2015 regular season got underway on Thursday, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots put up their first win of the season, downing the Pittsburgh Steelers, 28-21. Brady threw for just under 288 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to be the first team on the board when Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Patriots took advantage of that and were more than happy to put up the first points of the season when Brady led the Patriots 90 yards in 13 plays, hitting Gronkowski for a 19-yard pass, followed by a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
So here's what happened next: the Steelers drove down the field, and Scobee missed a 46-yard field goal. Then, Brady hit Gronkowski for a 6-yard touchdown pass. That's two missed field goals for the Steelers and two Brady-to-Gronkowski touchdowns before the end of the first half.
Scobee did finally convert on a field goal just before halftime, after Darrius Heyward-Bey ruined his chances of a touchdown reception by going down to his knees and not paying attention to the boundary lines. Scobee nailed a 44-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the first half. Still, New England took a 14-3 lead into halftime.
The third quarter saw both teams find the end zone, with Brady finding another tight end for a red zone touchdown, this one to Scott Chandler at the start of the second half. Ben Roethlisberger finally led the Steelers on a touchdown drive on the ensuing possession, riding running back DeAngelo Williams and then Will Johnson to a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 21-11 in favor of New England.
Pittsburgh closed the gap further with another Scobee field goal, but showed once again it had no answer for the Patriots on defense when Brady hit Gronkowski for a 52-yard pass and then capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown to -- you guessed it -- Gronkowski.
From there, the Steelers tried to get more points on the board, but Roethlisberger wound up being picked off by Duron Harmon in New England territory. The Patriots proceeded to chew up a whole lot of play clock, and by the time the Steelers got the ball back, there were just three minutes to go in the game. That wasn't enough to make things happen -- they did wind up scoring, but with only two seconds left on the clock -- and the Patriots walked away with the win.
Brady finished the game 25-of-32 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Julian Edelman led the Patriots with 97 receiving yards, but Gronkowski had five receptions for 94 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Dion Lewis had 69 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving.
For the Steelers, Roethlisberger completed 26 of 38 passes for 351 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Williams put up 127 yards on 21 carries, and Antonio Brown had nine receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. There were bright spots for the Steelers, but they were absolutely no matchup for the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection from start to finish.
3 things we learned from Thursday's opener
Brady did, in fact, play football in Week 1
Brady played, which is significant given how much of the offseason was spent with his playing status totally up in the air. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season for his part in DeflateGate, but after an appeal to the league and then a judge, it was overturned. It was a long, drawn-out process that went on for far too long, stretching the entire offseason and into the preseason.
Brady played in three of the Patriots' preseason games, which he doesn't typically do because ... well, it's the preseason and he's Tom Brady. But it stands to reason he wanted to simply get on the field and play a little football with all the distractions, and he didn't look even a little fazed by it all on Thursday, hooking up with Gronkowski multiple times for multiple touchdowns. Here's one of them:
Williams replaces Bell effectively
Williams was dominant off and on for the Carolina Panthers, but has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. He's starting for the Steelers in place of Le'Veon Bell, who is serving a two-game suspension. The Steelers believed Williams could provide the high level of play they'd get from Bell, at least for two weeks, and he sure got things started looking pretty good:
Williams wound up having a good day overall. He carried the ball over 20 times and put up 120-plus yards, effectively moving the chains, finding holes and generally looking a lot like the guy that was so dominant in Carolina. We'll see how his high carry count affects him heading into Week 2, but the Steelers have to be encouraged by his play on Thursday.
The NFL sure is excited that it's back
Obviously, the beginning of a new regular season with actual football is a huge deal, but the NFL delayed the beginning of said season by a solid chunk of time so they could get as many musical acts as humanly possible in before the game actually started. There was Ellie Goulding, T-Pain, a lot of cheerleaders doing cheerleader things, Robert Kraft dancing with a Lombardi Trophy and more.
There was also this guy:
Yeah, that was a live orchestra. Grace Potter also did the national anthem and kickoff happened sometime close to 8:45 ET, which wasn't super late by any means, but the NFL sure did pull out all the stops for this kickoff special.
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SB Nation presents: Don't trust anything you learn from Week 1 in the NFL