Best and worst: Patriots 28, Steelers 21
BEST way to begin a season
The New England Patriots can say unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, that no one will have a better pregame ceremony than they did. I mean, when you're the Super Bowl champs, you make sure everybody knows it. That's part of the deal. You bring out past champions and dance around in the middle of the field with trophies. You trot out rappers and orchestras and sing songs like "All I do is win". You unveil championship banners. You blast fireworks to kingdom come.
BEST way to stay relevant
Give it up for the Dropkick Murphys, who have 100 percent market share in New England sports championship celebrations. Doesn't matter what the sport; you can bank on the Dropkick Murphys to be there singing "Shipping Up to Boston". In fact, I think their concert schedule looks something like this: Patriots Celebration (TBD), Red Sox celebration (TBD), Celtics celebration (TBD), Bruins celebration (TBD).
WORST injury on the opening drive
Oh man, Dominique Easley goes down on the first drive and come to find out it's a hip issue. Out for the game. This guy just can't stay on the field, can he? The Patriots had big plans for the 2014 first-round pick this season on their young defensive line, but hips don't lie.
BEST New England Sunday tradition - on a Thursday
There's nothing like waking up on a crisp New England fall Sunday. You sip your coffee or tea. Take the dog out for a walk. Maybe rake some leaves for a bit (though not too long). Eventually, you pop back into the house -- maybe the fire's going at this point? -- and turn on the television. And you watch TOM BRADY THROW A TOUCHDOWN PASS TO ROB GRONKOWSKI, BABY! WOOOOOO! Every Sunday. Like clockwork. It's just part of the day. Except this time it was part of your Thursday night ritual, which -- depending on how old you are -- means you were either in a crowded bar or laid up on the couch after a long day at work. Either way, the Steelers may want to think about putting a defender on that guy. I heard he's pretty good.
WORST kicker in the NFL
Josh Scobee, come on down! Sure, things will even out in the end. It's doubtful Scobee will end the season as the worst kicker in the NFL. But when you miss your first two field goals of the season -- two very makable field goals including one that would have given your team the first lead of the game -- you gotta roll with the title for a few days, and maybe even through Week 1. I don't make the rules, Scobee.
BEST encore - Brady to Gronk again
Encore! Encore! One more song! One more song! Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected again to make sweet, sweet music on the gridiron. This time, the Steelers thought to put two men on Gronk -- two more than last time -- however, they just let Gronk run right by them through the hash marks for a touchdown over the top of both of them. Honestly, it looks too easy for Gronk out there. He's a monster. He's . . . Gronkey Kong.
When Bey doesn't know where the sideline is :( This one goes out to Steelers Darrius Heyward-Bey. Bey found himself wide open along the sideline in the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger lofted an easy pass right into his arms. So what does Heyward-Bey do? He gets down on his knees to make the catch . . . and in doing so sticks his feet out of bounds upon catching the ball. Dude. Know your surroundings. Have a single clue where you might be.
BEST usage of another massive target
We've talked so much about Gronkowski so far -- and rightfully so -- but what about the team's other monster tight end, Scott Chandler? Many think Chandler can be a huge end-zone threat this season, and though he didn't get a single target in the first half, he got his first one in the third quarter. The result? A one-yard touchdown catch. Boom. And just like that the Pats have the most lethal tight end red zone combo in the NFL.
BEST example of the NFL's new extra-point rule coming into play
Last year, the Steelers probably kicked a virtually guaranteed extra point after scoring their touchdown that make it 21-9. But instead (and maybe since Scobee has been sketchy), they went for the two-point conversion and converted it, as Roethlisberger hits Markus Wheaton on a quick slant pass. That put the Steelers down 10 points.
WORST time for a penalty
Patrick Chung with a big no-no in the end zone on third down as Pat Chung got called for the pass-interference against Heath Miller. Chung wasn't even looking at the play, and didn't really bother arguing the call. Luckily . . .
WORST time for a penalty, part II
. . . the Steelers made an even dumber penalty a few plays later. On third down from the one-yard line, half the left side of the offensive line was called for a false start. That pushed the Steelers back five yards, and they went nowhere on the next play. They hit the field goal, though, to cut the Pats' lead to 21-14.
BEST back of the bunch
Going into Thursday's game, the Patriots had slim pickings when it came to their running back situation. LeGarrette Blount was suspended for Week 1, and Jonas Gray was surprisingly released on the last cut-down day. Travaris Cadet was inactive. That left Dion Lewis, James White, and Brandon Bolden. It was Lewis who emerged from the pack early on, making a few nice catches and getting the touches. He finished with 69 rushing yards and four receptions for 51 yards. He also owes Rob Gronkowski a "party rock" basket, as his costly fumble near the goal line was fallen on by Gronkowski.
BEST reward for doing something right
When Rob Gronkowski originally fell on Dion Lewis' fumble, he did so right on the goal line. It was ruled a fumble recovery and touchdown by Gronkowski. But after review, it was determined that he was down on the "six inch yard line" according to the referees. Well, on third down, Brady fired to Gronkowski on a fade route, and there was no doubt about this one - touchdown. For the third time of the night
BEST chant of the night
"Where Is Rog-er?! Where is Rog-er?! Where is Rog-er?!" The chants rang loud midway through the fourth quarter as the Patriots held a 28-14 lead over the Steelers. Roger Goodell, show yourself! Come on fans, don't you know that Roger has already been to two Patriots games in the playoffs? Plus, he's got to be in Chicago by Sunday and there's just no way to get there in time.
WORST pass of the night
Ben Roethlisberger just aired one up in double coverage for Darrius Heyward-Bey, and it was such an easy pick for Duron Harmon that I'm convinced over 50-percent of the fans in attendance could have made the play. Not exaggerating. Whoever was left in the stadium, half of them make that catch. As my good friend Mike Giardi Tweeted, Harmon could have called a fair catch on that one. Not sure what Big Ben was thinking, but it may have had something to do with the postgame spread. Maybe it's turkey. Mmmmm turkey…
BEST way to start the season
With a win. Nearly 300 passing yards for Tom Brady to go along with four touchdown passes. Three touchdown catches for Rob Gronkowski. One more for newbie Scott Chandler. A nearly perfect game between Brady and Julian Edelman, who caught 11 balls for 97 yards. A rushing game that held its own out there without LeGarrette Blount. An offensive line without a couple of key veterans that got the job done as well. Were there some blips in the secondary? Yes. But nothing that wasn't expected. Interior defense is something that will need to improve, as DeAngelo Williams rushed for 127 yards. Vince Wilfork, you are missed, my friend. All in all, a 28-21 win to kick off the NFL season - the Patriots will take it.