In their record sixth straight trip to the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots took care of business with a 36-17 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Waiting for the Patriots are the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The victory for New England was a convincing one in every facet off the game. Both sides of ball performed at a high level in the win. Taking things a steo further, here is a look at what really stuck out from the game.
1. Patriots Defense - There was a lot of talk going into the game that the defense of the Patriots wasn't as good as it had looked on paper. Sunday night's victory should silence some of the doubters. Pittsburgh was perceived to have "too many" weapons for New England to contain. The Patriots were up to the challenge. Matt Patricia's defense held Pittsburgh to only 17 points and also had two huge goal line stands which greatly changed the momentum of this game.
2. Chris Hogan - Playing the role of Rob Gronkowski tonight was newcomer Chris Hogan. Hogan seemed to be open all game long. He grabbed nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Since Rob Gronkowski's debut he has typically dominated the Steelers defense, Hogan did that tonight running some of the same routes that Gronkowski typically would run.
3. Julian Edelman - Hogan wasn't the only receiver that seemed to be open most of the night for the Patriots. Like always, Brady consistenly found Edelman, who had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Edelman has no gotten 70 or more more receiving yards in 10 straight games.
4. Tom Brady - For a quarterback that practically lives in the playoffs, Brady somehow managed to set a new career high for passing yards in the playoffs. Brady threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns in the win. With his three touchdown passes, Brady now has 61 career postseason touchdown passes. Brady's childhood idol, Joe Montana, is the next closest with 45.
5. Running Game - While Brady was at the top of his game yet again, the running game for the Patriots left something to be desired. The offense rushed for only 57 yards on 27 carries. After failing to do much on the groun during the divisional round, the Patriots need to find a way to right that ship to avoid being one dimensional in the Super Bowl.
6. Records - With the win, New England will be advancing to is ninth Super Bowl. That breaks their tie with Pittsburgh and the Dallas Cowboys for most all time Super Bowl appearances. The records don't stop there however. Tom Brady will be going to his seventh Super Bowl and has a chance to break the record for most Super Bowl wins all time. That record is currently held by Terry Bradshaw and Montana, who both have four Super Bowl wins. Like Brady, Bill Belichick will be appearing his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach. That breaks the tie Belichick held with former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula.
Extra Point - While some doubt the how good the Patriots defense really is, they were still the league's number one scoring defense. While in Houston, New England will be facing the league's number one scoring offense. Something will have to give in that game. The good thing for the Patriots, if the game becomes a shootout, the offense is more than capable of putting up points in bunches. In his career against Atlanta, Brady is 4-0 with nine touchdowns and only one interception.