FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are heading to Houston to play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI after a dominant 36-17 win in the AFC Championship Game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, are headed home to pack up their lockers.
The Patriots demolished the Steelers in what was expected to be a close game. Tom Brady had one of his best playoff games, and he’ll need more of the same in two weeks to beat the Falcons. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, these six players stood out in the Patriots’ win.
QB TOM BRADY
Brady rebounded nicely after his worst game of the season, when he threw two interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Houston Texans in the divisional round.
Brady went 32 of 42 for 384 yards with three touchdowns in this one. It was one of his best career postseason performances, and it came against a solid Steelers defense.
It was repeated over and over this week that if Brady had a good game, the Patriots should have no trouble beating the Steelers. That was indeed the case Sunday night.
WR CHRIS HOGAN
Hogan is playing his best football of the season when it matters most. He’s become a go-to receiver for Brady and caught nine passes on 12 targets for 180 yards with two touchdowns.
Hogan broke Deion Branch’s Patriots record for most receiving yards in a playoff game. He had four catches on four targets for 95 yards last week.
It seems the playoffs suit Hogan well. This is his the first postseason run of his NFL career.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman also is playing the best football of the season right now. He caught eight passes on 10 targets for 118 yards with a touchdown. Edelman is on an unbelievable tear since the Patriots’ midseason bye week.
He has 74 catches for 1,003 yards with three touchdowns in the 10-game span.
CB LOGAN RYAN
Ryan struggled early in the game, allowing five catches for 41 yards in the first half but finished strong and didn’t allow a catch in the third or fourth quarters. He had a third-down pass breakup in the third quarter and a touchdown-saving pass breakup later in the game.
CB ERIC ROWE
Rowe also had a strong game, allowing four catches on 10 targets for 71 yards with a pass breakup, interception and touchdown allowed. The 30-yard touchdown came in garbage time.
The Patriots had two turnovers on the game. Kyle Van Noy forced receiver Eli Rogers to fumble. It was recovered by Rob Ninkovich.
CB MALCOLM BUTLER
Butler didn’t shadow Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the whole game, but he allowed just three catches on five targets for 33 yards with a pass breakup.
Brown was largely neutralized, catching seven passes on nine targets for 77 yards. The Patriots played zone heavily in the second half after running back Le’Veon Bell departed the game with a groin injury.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images