In all of Chris Hogan’s college career at Monmouth, he had a grand total of 147 yards and 3 touchdowns as a starter for one year. In one single playoff game, he topped that total by more than 30 yards as the Patriots showed no signs of slowing down after their 14-2 regular season.
Tom Brady exploited the Steelers’ zone defense the whole game, finishing with 384 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no turnovers. Hogan repeatedly found room to run and caught 9 balls for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns. He wasn’t the only one to gain substantial yardage in this one, as Julian Edelman also caught 8 balls for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots didn’t even need their run game in this one, as they only had 57 rushing yards on the day. Brady was tearing this defense up, and came out very strong on the first drive of the game.
Brady came out firing, completing his first pass to Martellus Bennett for 12 yards. Then, Brady completed a short pass to Edelman, who scampered 41 yards with the ball to set the Patriots up at the Pittsburgh 22 yard line. Brady drove them down to the 13 yard line, but settled for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to start the game.
The Patriots and Steelers then traded punts,with Brady being sacked by Javon Hargrave for a big loss on the Patriots’ drive. However, Pittsburgh couldn’t do anything with the momentum, going nowhere on their next drive and netting only 24 yards on a Jordan Berry touchback. On the Patriots’ next drive, Hogan began to find some seams in the defense. He had completions of 26, 11, and 16 yards to Hogan on the drive, with the 16 being Hogan’s first touchdown. He was left all alone in the middle of the endzone, and Brady found him for a 10-0 lead.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t go down without a fight, though. They responded with their own touchdown, but it came at a cost. During the drive, star running back Le’Veon Bell went down with a groin injury. While he did try to make an appearance, it was clear that he was in major pain and was ruled out for the game. However, his backup, DeAngelo Williams, is no slouch. He was able to punch it in from 5 yards out to make it a 10-6 game, but Chris Boswell was unable to connect on the extra point attempt.
Again, the Patriots had an answer. After marching down to the Pittsburgh 34 with a 22 yard completion to Hogan, Josh McDaniels brought out the tricks. Brady handed it off to Dion Lewis, and it looked like a simple dive play. However, Lewis turned and pitched the ball back to Brady, who found a wide open Hogan for a 34 yard score, Hogan’s second. By halftime, Hogan would have 117 yards and 2 touchdowns. A 6 minute drive by Pittsburgh culminated in a Boswell field goal, and the half would end with a score of 17-9. At halftime, star receiver Antonio Brown only had 26 yards due to suffocating defense by Malcolm Butler.
The Steelers started out the second half with a punt, and New England came back with a 47 yard field goal by Gostkowski to increase the lead to 11. Another punt pinned the Patriots at their own 12 yard line, but by that time the offense was rolling. Brady threw precise passes and had another long completion to Hogan. However, the play that defined the Patriots performance that day was a bruising 18 yard run by LeGarette Blount. He powered through the defense, and it took 7 Steelers to bring him down after a run where he probably should have only gotten 9 yards. Blount scored on the next play, making it 27-9 and creating a deficit the Steelers couldn’t come back from.
Just as if it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse for the Steelers, it did. Kyle Van Noy punched the ball out of the hands of Eli Rogers, giving the red-hot Brady and the offense at the Pittsburgh 28 yard line. Brady completed 2 passes to Edelman, the last one being a touchdown to make it a blowout at 33-9. Gostkowski, who did have some struggles this year with extra points, missed, but it didn’t matter.
Then, Pittsburgh drove all the way to the New England 2 yard line but couldn’t cash in, turning it over on downs. The rest of the game was meaningless, with Roethlisberger tossing a pick on a deep pass intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey. Pittsburgh scored a garbage time touchdown on a 30 yard strike to Cobi Hamilton, but the Patriots reigned as AFC champions once again. They will play in the Super Bowl against the high-flying Falcons in a game for the ages.
There was many broken records in this game, mostly for the Patriots. This will be the Patriots’ 9th Super Bowl appearance, the most appearances of all time . This was also the Patriots’ 31st postseason win, 4th-most all-time. This is Brady’s 7th conference championship, the most of all-time. This is Bill Belichick’s 7th conference championship, most by a head coach in NFL history. Robert Kraft’s 8th conference championship, most in NFL history. Brady broke the record for most conference championship games played in, with 11. He also extended his record for most playoff games played in with 33. Edelman broke the record for most postseason reception yards by a Patriot. It’s safe to say that the Patriots are a dynasty under the Krafts and Belichick.
Notes: ..Bell finished with just 20 yards on 6 carries. His replacement, DeAngelo Williams, had 34 rushing yards and a touchdown to go along with 51 receiving yards..Roethlisberger passed Dan Marino for 6th most postseason passing yards with 4,512…Hogan had his first career postseason 100 yard game…Gostkowski made his 27th field goal as a Patriot in the postseason…Antonio Brown finished with 7 receptions for 77 yards…
Next up: The Steelers head to the offseason, while the Patriots begin preparations for the Falcons.