2016 AFC Conference Championship : Patriots ( 36 ) vs Pittsburgh Steelers ( 17 )
In a rematch of the regular season meeting between these two teams, the Patriots proved to be the superior team, cruising to the seventh Super Bowl of the Brady–Belichick era (ninth overall).
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and marched all the way to the Steelers 13, but Malcolm Mitchell dropped a wide open pass on 3rd-and-1 and the Patriots settled for a 31-yard Gostkowski field goal. After the next few drives ended in punts, quarterback Tom Brady capped of an 80-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan for a 10–0 lead. The Steelers countered with an 11-play, 84-yard drive with DeAngelo Williams scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run (with a missed PAT) early in the second quarter. The Patriots answered the Steelers, though, storming 82 yards with a flea flicker from Dion Lewis to Brady, resulting in a 34-yard touchdown pass to Hogan. The touchdown pass increased Brady's all-time playoff record to 19 as well as Hogan having his first career 100-yard receiving playoff game in just his second career playoff game. The Steelers then answered with a 70-yard, marathon drive, but were only able to score on a 23-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, trimming the deficit to 17–9 at halftime. On the drive, Ben Roethlisberger seemingly hit tight end Jesse James for a 19-yard touchdown pass, but a review ruled James down at the 1, but the Patriots kept the Steelers out of the endzone. After forcing the Steelers to punt on their opening drive, the Patriots marched 55 yards in 9 plays with Gostkowski increasing the Patriots lead to 20–9 on a field goal on a 47-yard field goal by Gostkowski. The Steelers seemed primed to respond, driving to the Patriots 39, but the Patriots defense clamped down again, and the Steelers punted. The Patriots took advantage and stormed 88 yards with LeGarrette Blount carrying half of the Steelers to the 1-yard line then finishing off the drive on the next play and the Patriots began to pull away leading 27–9. A 39-yard pass to Hogan on the drive gave Brady his 11th career 300-yard passing game in the playoffs and Hogan with 180 yards receiving broke the previous record of 153 yards set by Deion Branch. The Steelers situation grew worse on the first play of the Steelers next drive, Kyle Van Noy stripped Eli Rogers after a 5-yard catch with Rob Ninkovich recovering at the Steelers 28-yard line. Four plays later, Brady found Edelman for a 10-yard touchdown, widening the lead to 33–9 (with a missed PAT). The Steelers then stormed all the way to Patriots 2-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter. After forcing the Patriots to punt, Eric Rowe intercepted Roethlisberger and returned the ball 37 yards to the Steelers 32, ending any hope of a miraculous comeback. Eight plays later, Gostkowski kicked a 26-yard field goal giving the Patriots a 36-yard field goal. Roethlisberger struck back with a 30-yard touchdown pass plus a two-point conversion, trimming the deficit to 36–17. The onside kick went out of bounds and the Patriots ran out the clock to win the game.
During the game, the Patriots broke numerous records. One of the records was by placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, in which he set the Patriots' franchise record for most postseason field goals in a career. He passed former Patriot Adam Vinatieri who had 26 with the franchise. He only trails three other kickers in the history of the NFL who are Gary Anderson (32), David Akers (39), and Vinatieri who now has 51 after he added 25 with the Indianapolis Colts. Adding to this, wide receiver Julian Edelman made a new record of most receptions yards in the playoff by a Patriot. He surpassed Deion Branch for the record. Surprisingly, both of these records were made in the first drive of the Patriots. Next, wide receiver Chris Hogan set the single-game franchise receiving record in the postseason. He finished the game with a total of 180 yards along with 2 touchdowns. Finally, with the win, the Patriots set the record for most Super Bowls ever attended by a single franchise with 9. They surpassed the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Denver Broncos who are all tied at 8. This will be the 7th for the Brady-Belichick tandem.
Tom Brady's Statistics