FOXBORO, Mass. -- Whether or not the Patriots finish 19-0, they've already clinched the title of the greatest passing team in NFL history. In Sunday's 34-13 win over Pittsburgh, New England had the perfect offensive day and didn't have to run at all.
With three games left, Tom Brady has 45 touchdowns and 4,095 passing yards. He will shortly break Peyton Manning's single-season TD record (49) and could shatter Dan Marino's record of 5,084 passing yards.
The Vikings, Rams and Colts have all made a mark in recent years with their passing offenses. But none of them were as good as the 2007 Patriots.
The Steelers entered Foxboro with the No. 1 defense in the NFL. They're successful, because Dick LeBeau's unit typically is able to dictate the action with the blitz. Not Sunday. Pittsburgh tried everything and had no luck. Its famous blitzes never caused any problems for Brady, who wasn't sacked once. And there was no way to focus on one receiver because of Brady's ability to spread the ball.
The Steelers' defenders left the game scratching their heads, with no ideas for what they could have done differently:
Ike Taylor: "Tom Brady does not make mistakes. It is just plain and simple."
Larry Foote: "I don't care if you blitz 15 guys. If he's throwing the ball as soon as he gets it, it doesn't matter what blitz you design."
Brett Keisel: "There is no way to get pressure on him. They got a bunch of little squirmy guys who know how to break loose."
Tyrone Carter: "They kept running that bubble screen. Then you come up on the bubble screen and they hit you deep."
The Patriots didn't even try a rushing game to keep the Steelers off-balance. For most of the second half they lined up four receivers and quasi-receiver Kevin Faulk, so Pittsburgh knew what was coming. The conventional wisdom that championship teams have to be able to run the ball is outdated. Thanks to rule changes and game-planning, offense around the NFL are completing passes at a higher percentage than ever. And no one is more efficient than the Patriots. Brady has hit over 70 percent of his passes this year and can always find someone in a critical situation.
New England's three remaining regular-season opponents may catch a break as the Pats downplay their passing attack a bit in meaningless games. But if they can throw like that against Pittsburgh, there's no other team who will be able to stop them when it counts in the playoffs.