FOXBOROUGH, United States: Tom Brady put the “Deflategate” saga behind him by throwing four touchdowns as the New England Patriots began the defense of their championship with a 28-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
The Super Bowl champions opened the new NFL season in style and superstar quarterback Brady — who spent the offseason battling to overturn a four-game suspension — had all his weapons working in his first game since his ban was struck down.
The 38-year-old completed 25 of 32 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns, including three to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had five catches for 94 yards.
Patriots also unveiled their championship banner during a glitzy pre-game ceremony in front of a crowd of 68,000 at Gillette Stadium.
Not even a light rain could spoil the party as New England owner Robert Kraft brought out the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the hip hop anthem “All I Do Is Win.”
Brady led the players onto the field to a huge ovation from the Patriot fans. He then walked over to the sidelines, where he handed a new game ball to centre David Andrews.
Brady’s four-game suspension was quashed last Thursday by a US judge, who ruled that commissioner Roger Goodell had delivered his own brand of “industrial justice” in finding that Brady played a role in the deflating of footballs below the legal limit for last season’s AFC championship contest.
Brady, who is coming off winning his third Super Bowl MVP, denied playing a role in any conspiracy to tamper with the balls and the judge ruled that Goodell went beyond the probe conclusions of lawyer Ted Wells.
Goodell normally attends the NFL season opener but decided against travelling to New England. It was probably a wise move as the crowd mocked Goodell in the fourth quarter by chanting “Where is Roger?”
Brady set a record with his 161st win with the same team, surpassing Brett Favre, who has 160 with the Green Bay Packers.
“He was unbelievable,” Gronkowski said of Brady. “He is our leader. He is a great player and it is fun to play with him.”