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Remembering Brady's statement win in 2017 AFC Championship

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Following his four-game suspension for "Deflategate" to start the 2016 season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were on a mission.

With Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett filling in for Brady to begin the year, the Patriots went 3-1. When Brady returned, they'd only lose one more game the remainder of the campaign.

Brady's biggest statement that season -- besides his miraculous Super Bowl LI comeback, of course -- came in the AFC Championship game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. That night, he delivered one of his most dominant performances to keep the redemption tour rolling.

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Next up: the 2017 AFC title game.

The date

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017

The matchup and result

AFC Championship: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

The backstory

After a brutal offseason filled with seemingly nothing but "Deflategate" controversy, the NFL handed Brady a four-game suspension to begin the 2017 campaign. The team's second-round pick in the 2014 draft, Jimmy Garoppolo, was called upon in Brady's absence.

Garoppolo got the Patriots off to a 2-0 start, but a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 2 forced New England to go with third-stringer Jacoby Brissett the next two games. Brissett proceeded to lead the Patriots to a 27-0 win over the Houston Texans in Week 3 before falling to the Buffalo Bills in Week 4.

When Brady returned, the revenge tour was on. The then-40-year-old quarterback led the Patriots to a 13-1 record the rest of the way to finish the regular season 14-2.

 

After breezing past the Texans in the Divisional Round, Brady was faced with a tough AFC Championship matchup vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's when Brady left his mark.

The game

Brady and the Patriots wasted no time making their presence felt in the pivotal showdown. They got off to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. They entered the locker room for halftime up 17-9.

The third quarter is when New England really opened things up. The Patriots' defense kept Pittsburgh off the scoreboard while Gostkowski drilled another field goal, LeGarrette Blount punched in a rushing touchdown, and Julian Edelman caught a 10-yard TD pass from Brady. The Steelers didn't score again until it was far too late, and Brady and the Patriots were off to the Super Bowl with a 36-17 victory.

Brady threw for what was then a franchise playoff record 384 yards and three touchdowns. Hogan was his top target in the blowout win, catching nine passes for 180 yards and two TDs.

After the game, Brady brushed off the questions about whether he was motivated by the Deflategate controversy.

"This is my motivation right here, all these fellas in front of me, these guys," Brady said. "The boys showed up to play today."

To top things off, the Gillette Stadium crowd was rowdy throughout the game and celebrated the victory by taunting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with "Where is Roger?" chants.

But the redemption tour was not yet complete.

The aftermath

The Patriots headed to Houston to take on the Matt Ryan-led Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Little did they know the history that was about to be made.

Atlanta demolished New England in all facets of the game in the first half. While Lady Gaga performed the halftime show, the Falcons were celebrating in the locker room. They'd score first in the second half too, taking a 28-3 lead that has since turned into a punchline.

Brady went on to lead the Patriots in one of the most incredible comebacks in sports history, never mind just football. A huge strip-sack by Dont'a Hightower shifted the momentum in New England's direction, and in a blink of an eye the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to force overtime.

After winning the coin toss and receiving the kickoff in OT, Brady and the Patriots marched down the field to complete the historic effort. James White scored the game-winning touchdown, and Brady had his fifth Super Bowl ring.