Blount carries the load against old teammates as Pats top Steelers, 27-16
PITTSBURGH — LeGarrette Blount ran for two touchdowns and 127 yards against his former team, and the New England Patriots turned to their old reliables — Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski — to hold off the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers and win 27-16 Sunday.
Gronkowski, quiet until then, caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Brady in the third quarter after the Steelers cut what was a 14-0 deficit to 14-13. The tight end then made a 37-yard catch to set up Blount’s 5-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. Blount earlier ran for a 3-yard touchdown, and Brady threw for two scores.
Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones, making only his third NFL start, was more than adequate in replacing Roethlisberger, who is expected to be out three to six weeks with a knee injury.
Jones, going 29 of 47 for 281 yards, overcame a badly thrown first-half interception into the end zone, made by Malcolm Butler, to hit Darrius Heyward-Bey on a 14-yard scoring pass. His throws to Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield and Antonio Brown led to three Chris Boswell field goals.
However, Boswell also missed from 42 yards with New England up 14-7, and again from 54 yards in the fourth quarter after Pittsburgh’s 35-year-old long snapper, Greg Warren, recovered a fumbled punt at the Patriots 43-yard line.
Blount, cut by the Steelers two years ago after leaving the sidelined prematurely during a game at Tennessee, ran over and by Pittsburgh (4-3) to create enough space for the near-perfect-as-usual Brady to go 19 of 26 for 222 yards and no interceptions. Brady has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in three games since returning from his four-game suspension — and the Patriots (6-1) have won all three.
Gronkowski caught four passes for 93 yards, and Julian Edelman finished with nine receptions for 60 yards. Blount, who had 24 carries, added one catch for 7 yards.
Bell ran 21 times for 81 yards and caught 10 passes for 68 yards. Brown amassed 106 yards on seven receptions.
Early on, it looked as if it might be another Patriots domination of the Steelers — New England has won seven of its last nine head-to-head meetings, plus six of eight in Pittsburgh — as Brady led them 80 yards on their first drive, which ended with his 19-yard scoring pass to James White out of the backfield. White kept the drive going with a 13-yard catch on a third-and-9 play.
Blount then finished off another extended drive, an 84-yarder, with his 3-yard TD run, making it 14-0 at 10:58 of the second.
Jones finally got the Steelers offense going, finding Brown for 51 yards ahead of his 14-yard TD pass to Heyward-Bey.
On Pittsburgh’s next drive, a potential game-tying 14-yard TD pass to Heyward-Bey was called back because of a holding call on substitute right tackle Chris Hubbard, and Boswell missed his 42-yard attempt wide right.
NOTES: Patriots RB Brandon Bolden experienced a tough first half. He dropped a third-down pass that would have extended a drive, then failed to touch down a Ryan Allen punt at the 6-yard line, with the ball bouncing into the end zone. The extra 14 yards helped the Steelers drive for Boswell’s 32-yard field goal. ... Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski missed a point-after attempt for the second time this season. He also has three missed field goals. ... Roethlisberger (knee) missed his 17th game to injury since breaking into the NFL in 2004. ... Steelers LB Ryan Shazier (knee) returned after sitting out three games. ... Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t seen viewing his balky tablet, a week after saying he wouldn’t use the device any longer to review formations. ... Steelers WR Sammie Coates injured a hand in the first quarter but later returned. He wound up with one catch for 4 yards.