FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Another miserable third quarter by the New England Patriots nearly undid a solid first half, but the Patriots were able to get their mojo back in the fourth quarter and carried it through the rest of the game to finish with a 55-31 win.
Here is a look at some players who are trending upward with the win, and others who need to step their game up to keep the Patriots on the right track.
Aaron Dobson: Dobson finished with two of the Patriots four receiving touchdowns on the day, including one on an 81-yard touchdown catch where Dobson got open almost immediately off the line of scrimmage, showing that vaunted release that was on display throughout training camp. The Patriots have been lacking a field-stretching boundary receiver since Randy Moss left the fold in 2010, and with Dobson's emergence over the past few weeks, it appears they have found what they were looking for.
Devin McCourty: Intercepted a deep pass for wide receiver Antonio Brown in the first quarter, running from the middle of the field all the way to the sideline to make the grab. He was also in on four tackles. After having an up-and-down start to his career at cornerback, McCourty has had an opportunity to settle into his new role, and is quietly putting together an All-Pro season at safety.
Rob Gronkowski: Gronkowski has proven to be the difference in the red zone, where he had two receptions on the day, including a 19-yard touchdown and another that put the Patriots at the one-yard line. He finished with nine receptions on 10 targets, 143 yards and a touchdown. His presence over the middle has really helped a Patriots offense that spent entirely too much time trying low-percentage throws outside the numbers instead of Brady's bread-and-butter, the throws over the middle.
Danny Amendola: Managed to get wide open on two big plays of 34 (touchdown) and 57 yards in the first half, and continued to wreak havoc on the Steelers secondary, finishing with four catches for 122 yards and the score. Amendola's return, along with the return to health for Gronkowski, has elevated the Patriots offense to the group they were expecting to have on the field when they assembled this team in the offseason.
Kyle Arrington: Got burned on two touchdowns, one a 20-yard catch by wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery over the middle that was close to indefensible and another on an eight-yard catch by Emmanuel Sanders. Arrington also gave up a 42-yard reception to Sanders down the sideline. Arrington gets more grief than he deserves, but today was a tough day for him by any measure.
Kenbrell Thompkins: The undrafted rookie was inactive for this game, and based on injury reports throughout the week, he was a healthy scratch, unless he got injured on the team's off day on Saturday. Fellow rookie Aaron Dobson has supplanted him as the top X-receiver in the base offense.
Julian Edelman: His 43-yard punt return gave the Patriots a spark in the third quarter while the game was tied at 24, but outside that play, Edelman was a non-factor in the offense. He dropped a pass and finished with just one catch on four targets for 11 yards. There was a time, not too long ago, where it appeared Brady would have to rely on Edelman for a majority of the team's production at receiver (27 targets in the first two games of the season, six in the past two games). Now that the younger guys have become more acclimated to the offense and Amendola and Gronkowski have returned, Edelman has become less of a key component in the offense.
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