Sunday evening's battle between the Patriots and Steelers in Pittsburgh had pretty much everything a modern NFL game seems to offer.
Star players made big plays. Star players left to injury.
There were back-and-forth heroics and mistakes by both teams, with the defenses holding on for dear life.
And, of course, there was a controversial call by the officials.
In the end it came together for a 27-24 Patriots victory that propels the team into the postseason with its ninth straight AFC East title and gives the defending champs the inside track toward the No. 1 seed in the playoffs heading into a pair of home games against the Bills and Jets to close out the regular season.
The Boston Globe writes that among all the things Sunday's game brought to the table, most notable was the insane performance by tight end Rob Gronkowski in his return from a one-week suspension. The Globe *looks at how the Steelers lost their minds, and the game, in the closing seconds. With the Steelers on the goal line trying to pull out the victory, Pittsburgh went to a fake spike play that did not fool the Patriots in any way. The Globe* assess that the latest victory was one of New England's most thrilling wins in years. The Globe breaks down Eric Rowe and Duron Harmon closing the door on Pittsburgh on the final defensive snap of the night. The* Globe *explains exactly why Pittsburgh's apparent game-winning touchdown to tight end Jesse James was overturned on replay review.
The Globe's *game story on the win looks at the late heroics it took to pull off another win over Pittsburgh. The *Globe *has Pittsburgh's reaction to the touchdown reversal. The *Globe notebook also notes that Rex Burkhead left the win with a knee injury. On the other side, the Globe *details Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown leaving with a calf injury. An energetic Tom Brady embraced the boos from fans at Heinz Field, according to the *Globe. The Globe passes along Jonathan Kraft downplaying a reported rift between Bill Belichick and Brady's body coach/business partner, Alex Guerrero.
In case you missed it, the *Globe's *Sunday football notes details which coaches across the NFL could be coming and going this offseason.
The Boston Herald details the wild finish that led to the Patriots latest AFC East title. The Herald *declares that the wild win highlights New England's ability to demoralize opponents. There is little doubt that Gronkowski was the story of the game in Pittsburgh, with *Herald columnist Ron Borges writing that even when the tight end is covered he still dominates. The Herald has Brady saying he was grateful that the ball bounced the Patriots way on Sunday. The Herald offers up the best and the worst from the Patriots win. The *Herald *notes the New England defense came up big after the big replay reversal.
The Providence Journal says New England stunned Pittsburgh. The ProJo declares that whatever it is, the Patriots have it. The ProJo accurately notes that Gronkowski was in "full beast mode" to carry the Patriots to victory. The ProJo passes along Steelers receiver Eli Rogers already predicting that Pittsburgh will beat the Patriots in the playoffs.
ESPNBoston.com notes that Brady, with a lot of help from Gronk, produced his 53rd career fourth-quarter comeback. ESPNBoston.com says the Patriots resolve puts them in position to lock up home field for the postseason. ESPNBoston.com says Gronkowski returned from suspension with a "career performance." ESPNBoston.com details how Rowe's instincts helped him defend the Steelers final play of the day.
ESPN offers up three options to fix the NFL's catch rule that's in the spotlight after Sunday's game. ESPN says James was "sick" after his touchdown was overruled. ESPN also says that while the catch rule has issues, the call was right in Pittsburgh.
WEEI.com writes that the demise of Brady and Gronkowski was greatly exaggerated this past week. WEEI.com has Gronkowski talking about how he felt on New England's final drive and how he'd like to feel that way all the time. WEEI.com says that while Brown and Burkhead left Sunday's game to injury, there is relatively good news coming out about both players' health. WEEI.com has Ben Roethlisberger talking about he and the Steelers coaches not being on the same page for their final play of the evening. WEEI.com has Dion Lewis saying that once the James touchdown was overturned he knew that the Steelers would throw a pick and "blow it."
NBC Sports Boston writes that the Patriots broke the Steelers hearts, again. NBC Sports Boston breaks down the GOAT-to-GOAT offense that won the game for New England. NBC Sports Boston says there was no panic from the Patriots at end of Sunday's dramatic game. NBC Sports Boston looks at the Steelers playing the blame game after the loss.
NFL.com offers up what we learned from the Patriots and Steelers battle.
*USA Today *says the Patriots broke the Steelers hearts with a controversial finish.