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Patriots 39, Steelers 26

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski scores the first of his three touchdowns, on a 19-yard reception in front of Steelers safety Ryan Clark, to give New England a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Associated Press

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski scores the first of his three touchdowns, on a 19-yard reception in front of Steelers safety Ryan Clark, to give New England a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

PITTSBURGH — Tom Brady maintained his mastery of the Steelers, throwing three touchdowns to tight end Rob Gronkowski and rushing for one, and the Patriots bounced back from an embarrassing 20-point loss by beating the Steelers 39-26 Sunday night.

No opposing player wins in Pittsburgh like Brady, who has won six of seven overall against the Steelers and four of five at Heinz Field. He was 30-of-43 for 350 yards with no sacks or interceptions, and has 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions against Pittsburgh.

The Patriots and their AFC East-rival Jets are tied for the conference's top record at 7-2.

Pittsburgh, its normally dominating defense shredded by Brady during its second home-field loss this season, dropped back into a first-place tie with Baltimore in the AFC North.

The Steelers played most of the game without wide receiver Hines Ward (neck), whose streak of 186 consecutive games with a reception ended.

Brady threw only one incompletion during a 70-yard drive on New England's first drive that ended with his 19-yard TD to Gronkowski, a rookie who played his high school senior season in Pittsburgh.

New England started the second half with a 78-yard drive that Brady finished with a 9-yard throw to Gronkowski, making it 17-3 and silencing a partisan crowd of 64,359.

As good as ever against Pittsburgh, Brady was more emotional than usual — screaming during huddles, yelling at linemen for penalties — perhaps reflecting his unhappiness at losing 34-14 last week at Cleveland.

Brady, who has averaged 373 yards in his past three starts against Pittsburgh, found Gronkowski for a third time on a 25-yarder that upped it to 36-18 and emptied the stands.

Brady methodically led drive after drive by throwing under Pittsburgh's two-deep zone. The quick throws — welcome back, Wes Welker — confused the defense and negated Pittsburgh's oft-successful blitzing schemes.

Welker, whose production has been nearly cut in half since last season and reduced even more since Randy Moss' departure, made eight catches for 89 yards. Gronkowski had five for 72 yards. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 87 yards, the most against Pittsburgh's defense this season.

James Sanders effectively ended it with a 32-yard touchdown return of an interception with 8½ minutes remaining on a throw by Roethlisberger that was tipped by Patrick Chung — though there were three more touchdowns, two by Pittsburgh.

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Patriots 39, Steelers 26 11/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 15, 2010 12:31am]
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