Patriots beat Steelers, set up Super Bowl versus Falcons
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[January 23, 2017]
By Larry Fine
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Reuters) - The New
England Patriots scored the first 19 points of the second half to
turn a tight contest into a romp as they beat the Pittsburgh
Steelers 36-17 on Sunday to set up a Super Bowl clash against the
high-scoring Atlanta Falcons.
The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship triumph
propelled the Patriots to a record ninth trip to the Super Bowl,
while Atlanta walloped the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC
Championship game earlier on Sunday to earn a shot at their first
league title in their Super showdown in Houston on Feb. 5.
Victory was extra sweet for the Patriots and Brady, who was
suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for his
role in the controversial underinflation of balls in the AFC title
game two years ago that came to be known as Deflategate.
New England began the season 3-1 before Brady rejoined them and took
them to a 14-2 regular season record and a winning streak that has
now reached nine games.
Brady, who completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three
touchdowns, avoided saying he felt extra motivation after accepting
a suspension he did not feel he deserved.
"This is my motivation right here, all these fellows right here in
front of me. That's why we're here," Brady said at the trophy
presentation as he gestured toward his teammates.
"We'll see if we can write the perfect ending in a couple of weeks.
It's going to take a big effort. We're playing a great team, but
it's going to be a hell of a game."
The Steelers, who were also vying to become the first team to make a
ninth Super Bowl appearance, stopped the Patriotsí running attack,
but had a hard time containing Brady and his stable of receivers,
most notably Chris Hogan.
Playing in his 11th conference title game, Brady spread the field
with his receivers and time and again found Hogan, hitting him with
first-half scoring strikes of 34 and 16 yards as New England took a
17-9 lead at intermission.
The long TD catch by Hogan came on a trick play known as a flea
flicker. Brady handed off to running back Dion Lewis, who ran
forward before tossing the ball back to Brady, who lofted the
touchdown pass to a wide open Hogan in the end zone.
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts against the Pittsburgh
Steelers during the fourth quarter in the 2017 AFC Championship Game
at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gained yards in shorter
chunks but had trouble getting the Steelers into the end zone
against a New England defense and stellar secondary that led the NFL
in fewest points allowed during the regular season.
The vaunted running game of the Steelers produced only 54 yards,
slowed when Le'Veon Bell was sidelined in the second quarter with a
Roethlisberger completed 31 of 47 for 314 yards, one touchdown and
The usually taciturn Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was enthused
to be going to his seventh Super in partnership with Brady, looking
for a fifth Super Bowl ring.
"Great players. It's all about the players," Belichick said at the
trophy ceremony. "They work hard, they're unselfish and they're
"The players played hard, they played smart. We took care of the
ball, played good defense and to hold that team to nine points for
50 minutes is pretty good."
(Editing by Andrew Both)
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