The Pittsburgh Steelers came into New England desperately needing the win, while the Patriots were simply looking for some consistency after several games of struggling to put together a full 60 minutes of play.
Pittsburgh has clearly struggled in all aspects of the game, with their 30th ranked running game facing the 31st ranked defense of the Patriots.
Ben Roethlisberger's throwing woes are nearly as famous as Tom Brady's, as both quarterbacks have struggled to find any rhythm with their receivers.
We have never seen Brady so shaky in his throwing, and Roethlisberger hasn't had the protection he needs to set and throw the football.
And here is what we learned from this Week 9 battle:
1. When the Patriots run the ball effectively, they win.
Stevan Ridley is a fiercesome runner and he has a way of finding the endzone. And he is complemented by Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount, both of whom can pound out yards in relief of Ridley.
This has become a potent combination of runners, with Ridley capable of eclipsing 100 yards with ease as he did today. Bolden just carried three times, but averaged 12 yards on those runs, while Bount averaged over nine yards per jaunt.
2. As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh's offensive line is blocking well, despite fighting a plethora of injuries.
Plagued with multiple losses, the line has still found ways to open holes for Le'veon Bell and hold off a ferocious rush to give Big Ben time to throw to his speedy receivers. If Roethlisberger has time, he can be deadly with the ball and his talented targets.
3. New England sorely misses their big defenders in the middle.
Not to take anything away from the Steelers' blocking scheme, but Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Jerod Mayo have left a huge hole in the Patriots' defense. It helped immensely to trade for Sopoaga at the deadline, and the younger players have filled-in nicely.
Still, there is no replacing certain players on any team. It also helps that the defense was playing with a lead for most of the game. But they did enough to keep the Steelers' offense from running them over today.
4. Aside from a stagnant fourth quarter, Brady and Co. managed to play through to the end of the game.
It is good to see this offense keep firing away for 60 minutes. And this week they combined the run and pass to dominate the Steelers' defense for 616 yards and seven touchdowns. We all knew Brady had it in him; and this running game was roaring to go.
In addition to Ridley rushing for 115 yards and two TDs, Aaron Dobson caught two TDs while going for 130 yards and Rob Gronkowski added one TD en route to 143 yards of pass catching. Blount had another TD and Danny Amendola caught the other TD pass, with his own 100-yard performance. And what is there to say about Brady than 70 percent passing for 432 yards and four TDs?
5. Pittsburgh's biggest problem is their defense.
In addition to allowing a 100-yard rusher, the D just couldn't plug the holes in the game of Brady and his suddenly prolific, passing attack. No need to rehash the stats, but Troy Polamalu and Co. were consistently out of place and a step behind this newly explosive group, led, in part, by a returned-to-health Gronkowski. Brady could not be intercepted, although he suffered three sacks and numerous hits.
This game was ultimately decided by offense... to the tune of 616 yards, seven TDs, and 55 points. Pittsburgh simply couldn't keep pace with Tom Brady, who appears to have hit his stride, along with his receivers and a galloping backfield.
Credit the Patriots' D with holding off Roethlisberger enough to give Brady the chance to win; and Pittsburgh can share the blame on defense, as well, failing to staunch the flow in any aspect of the game. This patchwork Patriots D managed to intercept Ben twice while sacking him five times, and not allowing a 100-yard rusher or receiver.
The Patriots will face their toughest tests of the season after a bye week, traveling to Carolina to play a surging Panthers team, and then a home game against the dangerous Denver Broncos. Pittsburgh won't catch a break as they face Buffalo and Detroit, before going up against division foes Cleveland and Baltimore.