GAME BALL goes to: WR Jerricho Cotchery
The Steelers bounced back from a 24-10 deficit and looked to have the momentum when they tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter, thanks to touchdown catches of 20 and 8 yards by Cotchery. Cotchery finished with a team-high seven catches and three touchdowns, becoming the first Steelers receiver to have three touchdown catches in a game since Hines Ward Oct. 22, 2006. "The momentum shift at that point in time was so dramatic," Cotchery said of the comeback. "But you have to give them credit. They responded like champions.
A quick look at the top performances from Sunday's game:
1. Deflating moment: One play after the defense came up with a big goal-line stop, Roethlisberger's first-down pass for Antonio Brown was intercepted by S Devin McCourty at the Steelers 32. One play later, Tom Brady threw a 34-yard touchdown to wide receiver Danny Amendola, who split William Gay and Troy Polamalu in the middle of the field for a 7-0 lead. That started Brady's passing onslaught. "I thought we took a shot and it was [Brown] going deep," Roethlisberger said. "I threw it up to let him make a play and they came down with it."
2. Big return: After the Steelers battled back to tie the score at 24-24, Julian Edelman returned a punt 43 yards to the Steelers 34, setting up a 17-yard touchdown to wide receiver Aaron Dobson to make it 34-24. "The big punt return was a significant play," coach Mike Tomlin said.
3. Big return II: Antonio Brown's 24-yard punt return to the Patriots 46 -- only the sixth drive to start beyond the 50 this season -- led to Roethlisberger's 8-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery that tied the score at 24-24.
4. Only takeaway: After a half in which he committed three penalties and was beaten in coverage, Troy Polamalu forced a fumble on the first series of the second half that LaMarr Woodley recovered at the Patriots 36. That led to a 20-yard touchdown pass to Cotchery that made it 24-17.
5. TD for AB: After the Patriots made it 17-3 with a 21-yard field goal, the Steelers came back on the ensuing four-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger to Brown in the right corner of the end zone with 1:55 remaining in the first half.
"Probably as disappointed as I have been, especially under the circumstances of how we were able to fight back there at the beginning of the second half. It was a 24-24 game and they handled us and they handled us well. We've got to accept that and move forward. We will. They were the better team tonight and the scoreboard, stats and everything, reflect that."
-- Mike Tomlin
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
14 hat's the number of turnovers committed by Ben Roethlisberger in eight games, including five fumbles. He had three more against the Patriots, including an interception in the first quarter that led to the first touchdown.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
Tom Brady looked like an average quarterback in the four games leading up to the Steelers game. He had two touchdowns, four interceptions, was sacked 16 times and never had a passer rating higher than 74.7 in those games. But he got well in a hurry against the Steelers, completing 13 of 18 passes for 252 yards and two TDs in the first half alone. Brady finished with 432 yards passing, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 151.8. "When Tom's on fire, it doesn't really matter who's out there," Polamalu said.
X's AND O's
It has been a recurring theme all season for the Steelers: The team that led the league in pass defense three of the past four seasons continues to give up big pass plays at an alarming rate. They gave up a 57-yarder to Danny Amendola and an 81-yard touchdown to Aaron Dobson, the fifth time in eight games they have allowed a pass of 51 yards or longer. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined, the Steelers allowed only four passes of 40 yards or longer. "They were making the plays and we weren't making any," safety Troy Polamalu said. "We didn't play very well from the first snap to the last."
The Steelers (2-6) play the Buffalo Bills (3-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field. The Steelers have won eight of the past nine meetings and are unbeaten against them at home (5-0) since 1993.