Patriots flex deep ball potential in blowout win over Steelers on the eve of Antonio Brown's arrival

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Let's hope Antonio Brown doesn't mind sharing the spotlight.

Heading into New England's Week 1 opener, the pending signing of Brown was the talk of the town. Heck, it even took some buzz away from a Super Bowl banner ceremony. While Brown will soon walk through the doors of Gillette Stadium, the 33-3 trouncing of the Steelers showed that he's going to be part of an offense that will cater to his talents. 

From the jump, New England's receiver unit -- led by Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon and, of course, Julian Edelman -- was able to have its away against Pittsburgh's secondary. Tom Brady completed 13 of his 19 attempts to that trio for 251 yards and three scores. 

With Brady under center, the Patriots have historically been an inside-out offense, beating teams with the short passing game rather than trying to throw the knockout punch. While Week 1 doesn't always reflect what the rest of the season will bring, this contest against Pittsburgh showed the Patriots thrive by letting the ball fly. 

On Dorsett's 58-yard touchdown (his second of the game), he ran a standard go-route with a stutter step to shake off his defender and was off to the races. Brady was able to see it and place a perfect ball in stride. 

"Phil has got a lot of speed," Bill Belichick said postgame. "He can definitely stretch the field and we've seen him make those big plays before. We've seen it in practice. He had some big caches for us and, again, that opened up some other things offensively as well." 

Dorsett isn't the only Patriot that can stretch the field. Josh Gordon, in his first game back from an indefinite suspension last year, also was able to have a breakaway grab. 

What made Gordon's 44-yard catch in the third quarter intriguing was that he was essentially lined up in the slot and went up the seam. It's a similar position in how the Patriots used tight end Rob Gronkowski over the course of his tenure. Our Jared Dubin identified in August the potential of Gordon fitting into that role Gronk previously filled. Because of Gordon's superior speed, he's able to get down the field in a flash, which makes things even more dangerous with New England's offense, especially with Julian Edelman, James White and Rex Burkhead operating underneath. 

With these two plays in mind, the long ball may be something that the Patriots implement more into their offense in 2019 than they have in year's past. Even if they do have a 42-year-old quarterback.

Last season, Tom Brady averaged 11.6 yards per completion. In 2017, it was 11.8, in 2016 it was 12.2, and again 11.8 in 2015. Against the Steelers in Week 1, he was able to average 14.2 yards per completion. That's a pretty sizable leap, albeit on a very small sample size compared to a full season. 

But strictly from the eye test, the Patriots were much more willing to sling it Sunday night as compared to last year.

"Yeah, we all dig the long ball," Brady said. "it was good to get a few of those in there. ... Just didn't feel like we were making consistent enough plays and the big plays really helped us tonight. They'll help us every week if we keep making them." 

With that feather in their cap of being able to go deep this year to a more successful degree, the offense is about to have nitrous injected into it with the arrival of Antonio Brown, who has averaged 13.8 yards per reception over the last two seasons.  

"It'll be fun," Edelman said of his new teammate in Brown. "The more playmakers you have out there, better things can go." 

And when you add a playmaker with the talent of Antonio Brown, this Patriots offense has the opportunity to stretch the field arguably as well as they've been able to during this dynasty. 

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