Patriots handle Steelers 36-17 in AFC Championship, clinch NFL-record ninth Super Bowl appearance

Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown pass.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown pass. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots are virtually unbeatable in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium. That trend continued Sunday evening with an offensive onslaught from Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Brady threw for 384 yards on 32-for-42 passing, with three touchdowns.Chris Hogan set a Patriots franchise record for reception yards with 180 on nine catches. He also hauled in two touchdowns.

The Steelers couldn’t muster up enough offense to keep up, especially after the loss of Le’Veon Bell in the first half to a groin injury. He did not return. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards, but the Steelers’ beef with the endzone continued. With one minute left in the second quarter, the Steelers were at the one-yard line and couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown, settling for a field goal.

After halftime, and only down eight points, the Steelers first three drives resulted in: Punt, Punt, fumble. This allowed the Patriots to score twice in less than a minute and 30 seconds.

Neither team particularly rushed the ball effectively. The Steelers ran 20 times for 54 yards, while New England rushed 27 times for 57 yards.

The Patriots now have the most appearances in a Super Bowl with nine. Super Bowl LI will be played February 5th in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium.