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Game Notes: Patriots improve to 3-0 in Thursday Night Kickoff games

TEAM NOTES 

PATRIOTS IMPROVE TO 3-0 IN THURSDAY NIGHT KICKOFF GAMES
The NFL's Thursday Night Kickoff tradition began in 2002 and the defending Super Bowl Champion has hosted every year since 2004. New England is 3-0 when playing in the Thursday kickoff game as the defending Super Bowl Champion. New England defeated Indianapolis, 27-24, on Sept. 9, 2004 and Oakland, 30-20, on Sept. 8, 2005 in Thursday games at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are 4-0 all-time in season openers in the season after winning the Super Bowl.

PATRIOTS JUMP AHEAD OF PITTBURGH IN SEASON OPENERS
The Patriots improved to 2-1 in season openers against the Steelers.  The last time the Patriots played Pittsburgh in the season-opener was in 2002 in the grand-opening of Gillette Stadium, a 30-14 win on Monday Night Football when the Patriots were coming off their first Super Bowl win. 

PATRIOTS, BILL BELICHICK AND TOM BRADY IMPROVE OPENING DAY RECORDS
Tom Brady has the best opening day record of any Super Bowl era quarterback.  New England won its eighth consecutive time when opening the season at home.

PATRIOTS SELL OUT 231st CONSECUTIVE HOME GAME
The Patriots had a sellout crowd for the 231st consecutive home game. The sellout streak is now in its 22nd season, and includes every preseason, regular season and playoff game since the 1994 regular season home opener.

PATRIOTS HAVE BEST RECORD IN PAST TEN YEARS
The Patriots' record of 123-38 (.763) over the past 10-plus seasons (since 2005) is the best in the NFL. Over the past 10 years, only six NFL teams have posted a winning percentage of .600 or better.

PATRIOTS HAVE BEST SEPTEMBER RECORD OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS
No team in the NFL has started off seasons stronger than the Patriots over the past 10 years, as New England has amassed a league-best 24-10 September record since 2005. 

PATRIOTS IMPROVE BEST HOME RECORD SINCE 2001
The Patriots have the best home record in the NFL since 2001 with a 95-18 record, including a .841 winning percentage. 

PATRIOTS IMRPOVE TO 19 STRAIGHT HOME WINS AGAINST NON-DIVISION AFC FOES
The Patriots have now won 19 straight home games against non-division AFC opponents. Their last loss at Gillette Stadium to a non-division AFC team was a 33-10 loss vs. Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2008. 

PATRIOTS EXTEND WIN STREAK WHEN LEADING AT THE HALF
The Patriots led the Steelers 14-3 at halftime and won the game 28-21. It marked the Patriots' 75th straight victory when holding a halftime lead at home, dating back to 2000. New England is now 67-0 when leading at halftime in games at Gillette Stadium.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES  

TOM BRADY HAS MOST WINS BY A STARTING QB WITH ONE TEAM
Tom Brady has 161 career regular-season wins with the Patriots, surpassing Brett Favre (160 wins with Green Bay) for the most wins by a starting quarterback with one team. Brady made his 208th career start against Pittsburgh. It took Favre 253 starts to reach 160 wins. 

BRADY MAKES HIS 14th STRAIGHT OPENING DAY START WITH ONE TEAM; LONGEST CURRENT STREAK AND FOURTH LONGEST STREAK IN NFL HISTORY
Tom Brady made his 14th opening day start with the Patriots. The only NFL quarterbacks with more opening day starts with one team are John Elway (16 with Denver), Dan Marino (16 with Miami) and Brett Favre (15 with Green Bay). Eli Manning is expected to make his 11th straight opening day start for the New York Giants, which will be the second longest active streak. 

BRADY MATCHES STEVE GROGAN WITH HIS 16th SEASON WITH THE TEAM
The 2015 season is Brady's 16th season with the Patriots, matching Steve Grogan (1975-90) for the most seasons with the team. 

TOM BRADY MAKES 109th CONSECUTIVE START
Tom Brady made his 109th straight start, including postseason games and is the only quarterback in NFL history with two separate streaks of 100-plus starts. 

TOM BRADY HAS BEST OPENING DAY RECORD IN SUPER BOWL ERA
Tom Brady is 12-2 as a starting quarterback on opening day, the best record among any quarterback on opening day in the Super Bowl era. 

BRADY NEARING 400 TOUCHDOWNS
Brady tied Drew Brees for fifth place for most career touchdowns passes with 396 and needs four more touchdown passes to become the fourth NFL player to ever reach 400 career touchdown passes – Peyton Manning (530), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino 420). 

BRADY IMPROVES TO 24 STRAIGHT HOME WINS AGAINST NON-DVISION AFC TEAMS
Tom Brady improved to 24 straight wins at home as a starting quarterback against non-division AFC opponents. His last home loss to a non-division AFC team was Nov. 5, 2006 in a 27-20 defeat to Indianapolis. 

BRADY SETS TEAM RECORD WITH 19 CONSECUTIVE PASS COMPLETIONS
Tom Brady completed 19 consecutive passes against Pittsburgh, setting a new team record. Brady had 14 straight pass completions vs. Jacksonville on Dec. 27, 2009. He set a Super Bowl record with 16 straight pass completions vs. the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The NFL record for most consecutive completions in a single game is 22, set by Mark Brunell while with Washington in a game vs. Houston on Sept. 24, 2006 and David Carr while with Houston vs. Buffalo on Nov. 19, 2006. 

BRADY HAS 23rd CAREER GAME WITH 4+ TOUCHDOWN PASSES
Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns against the Steelers, marking his 23rd career game with four or more scoring passes. Brady now has 18 career games with four or more touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Peyton Manning and Drew Brees for the NFL record for the most such games. 

MOST GAMES WITH 4-PLUS TOUCHDOWN PASSES
Peyton Manning        35
Drew Brees        26
Tom Brady        23
Brett Favre        23
Dan Marino        21
Johnny Unitas        17

MOST GAMES WITH 4-PLUS TOUCHDOWNS AND NO INTERCEPTIONS
Tom Brady        18
Peyton Manning        18
Drew Brees        18
Brett Favre        12

DION LEWIS HAS 120 YARDS FROM SCRIMMAGE
RB Dion Lewis had 120 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches in his Patriots debut, tallying 69 rushing yards on 15 carries (4.6 avg) and adding 51 receiving yards on 4 catches, including a 19-yard reception. The 120 scrimmage yards set a new career high for Lewis, topping his 58 yards from scrimmage (all rushing) while playing for Philadelphia against Washington on Jan. 1, 2012. Lewis's 69 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards against Pittsburgh were each career highs.

GOSTKOWSKI HANDLES THE NEW EXTRA POINT RULE; EXTENDS HIS STREAK
Stephen Gostkowski kicked the first extra point under the NFL's new rule that moved the extra point attempts from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line for a 33-yard kick. He extended his streak of consecutive extra points to 415. 
Most Consecutive (Kicking) Points After Touchdown
422    Matt Stover, Baltimore, 1996-2008; Indianapolis, 2009
415    Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 2006-present 
371    Jason Elam, Denver, 1993-2002
371    Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis, 1999-2007
360    Jay Feely, Atlanta, 2002-04; N.Y. Giants, 2005-06; Miami, 2007; N.Y. Jets, 2008-09; Arizona, 2010-2013, Chicago, 2014 

2015 FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK MALCOM BROWN RECORDS FIRST NFL SACK
2015 first-round draft pick DL Malcom Brown registered his first NFL sack on the game's first series when he dropped WR Antonio Brown for an 8-yard loss after Brown attempted a pass off of a lateral. The sack came on first down at the Patriots' 24 yard line and began a stand by the Patriots defense that stopped Pittsburgh's initial offensive momentum on a game-opening drive that ended with a missed field goal

*GRONKOWSKI SCORES FIRST POINTS OF 2015; HAS NOW SCORED IN FOUR STRAIGHT REGULAR SEASON GAMES *
Rob Gronkowski scored the Patriots first points of the season on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the second quarter. He has now caught a touchdown pass in four straight regular season games after closing out the 2014 by scoring a touchdown in the final three regular season games. He has now caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games, including the postseason. Gronkowski's longest streak of consecutive regular season games with a receiving touchdown is six in 2011, which is a franchise record for most consecutive games with a receiving touchdown. 

GRONKOWSKI TIES CAREER HIGH WITH THREE TOUCHDOWN CATCHES
Gronkowski caught three touchdowns to tie his career high. He also had three touchdown receptions vs. Chicago (10/26/14) and at Pittsburgh (11/18/10).
It is the fourth time overall that he has scored three touchdowns in a game. Gronkowski had three touchdowns overall vs. Indianapolis on Dec. 4, 2011 when he caught two touchdown passes and scored on a 2-yard run. 

GRONKOWSKI TIES TEAM MARK WITH FOUR GAMES WITH THREE OR MORE TOUCHDOWNS.
With his three touchdowns against Pittsburgh, Gronkowski tied the Patriots record for most games with three or more touchdowns with four such games. The record is shared with Randy Moss. 
Most Overall Games with Three or More Touchdowns
4 Rob Gronkowski
4 Randy Moss
2 Billy Lott
2 Curtis Martin
2 Larry Garron
2 Sam Cunningham

GRONKOWSKI SCORES IN SEASON OPENER FOR FIFTH TIME IN FIVE TRIES
Rob Gronkowski played in a season-opener for the fifth time in his career and scored a touchdown for the fifth time. Gronkowski scored a touchdown in the Patriots' first game of the season in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He did not play in the season opener in 2013.

GRONKOWSKI MATCHES CAREER LONG
Gronkowski had a 52-yard reception in the fourth quarter, matching his career long. He had a 52-yard touchdown reception vs. Kansas City on Nov. 21, 2011. 

EDELMAN HAS SIXTH CAREER GAME WITH 10-PLUS CATCHES
Edelman had his sixth regular season game with at least 10 catches, finishing with 11 grabs for 97 yards. 

SCOTT CHANDLER SCORES TOUCHDOWN WITH THE PATRIOTS
Scott Chandler scored his first touchdown as a member of the Patriots in the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. 

HIGHTOWER RECORDS FIRST SACK OF SEASON
LB Dont'a Hightower sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger for a 6-yard loss on second down in the first quarter, setting up a third-and-long that the Steelers did not convert.  Hightower had a career-high 6 sacks in 2014.

BRADY COMPLETES THREE STRAIGHT TO LEAD TO FIRST SCORE OF SEASON
With the Patriots facing a second-and-seven from Pittsburgh's 48-yard line in the second quarter, Tom Brady completed three consecutive passes to lead the Patriots to their first touchdown of the season.  Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 13-yard completion, then connected with Rob Gronkowski on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, with the two passes to Gronkowski totaling 35 yards and ending in a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Patriots lead. 

HARMON RECORDS FOURTH QUARTER INTERCEPTION
Duron Harmon intercepted a deep ball from Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter with the Patriots holding a 28-14 lead.  The pick was the fourth of Harmon's career and was the only turnover of the game.

LINEUP NOTES

NEW FACES
The Patriots have 21 players on the opening day roster that were not with the team in 2014. Of that group, 10 saw action in the game against the Steelers: David Andrews, Malcom Brown, Tarell Brown, Travaris Cadet, Joe Cardona, Scott Chandler, Justin Coleman, Bradley Fletcher, Trey Flowers, Jonathan Freeny, Geneo Grissom, Chris Harper, Tre' Jackson, Rufus Johnson, Dion Lewis, Eric Martin, Shaq Mason, Jordan Richards, Jabaal Sheard, Khyri Thornton, and Michael Williams.  
•    2015 Draft Picks  Malcom Brown, Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, Tre' Jackson, Shaq mason, Joe Cardona, 
•    2015 rookie free agents – David Andrews, Justin Coleman and Chris Harper 
•    First-Year –  LB Rufus Johnson 
•    Veteran free agents – Tarell Brown, Travaris Cadet, Scott Chandler, Bradley Fletcher, Jonathan Freeny, Dion Lewis, Eric Martin, Jabaal Sheard, Khyri Thornton, and Michael Williams. 

TWO 2015 DRAFT PICKS MAKE THE START
Two of the Patriots 2015 draft picks were in the starting lineup with first-round pick DL Malcom Brown at defensive tackle and fourth-round pick Tre' Jackson at right guard. 

ROOKIE FREE AGENTS DAVID ANDREWS STARTS AT CENTER
Rookie free agent C David Andrews made the start at center. He is the third rookie free agent to start on opening day under Bill Belichcik. DL Jace Sayler in 2001 and WR Kenbrell Thompkins in 2013 also started on opening day after making the team as a rookie free agent.

JEROD MAYO MAKES A SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO ACTION
LB Jerod Mayo made a successful return to regular season action after being limited to just six games in 2014 due to injury. 

DION LEWIS MAKES FIRST CAREER NFL START
RB Dion Lewis made his first NFL start vs. Pittsburgh. 

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