Foxborough, Mass. • Tom Brady looked into the end zone and found his favorite receiver. Rob Gronkowski caught the ball then slammed it to the ground.
The familiar spike was back after the star tight end's first touchdown of an injury-delayed season.
So was the Patriots' offense.
Brady shook off the inconsistency of his first eight games, threw for season highs of 432 yards and four touchdowns and led New England to a 55-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
"You throw it, they catch it, they run with it," he said. "It makes a good day for a quarterback."
The Patriots (7-2) go into their bye week with a two-game lead in the AFC East despite playing mediocre football for most of the first half of the season.
The 55 points were the most scored in an NFL game this season and the most ever against the Steelers (2-6). The Patriots' 610 yards were the third most in team history and the most ever allowed by Pittsburgh.
"We are going to comb through this with a fine tooth comb," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "and those people who are lacking effort won't be playing. It's just that simple."
Brady had 252 yards passing in the first half, more than in five of his other eight games.
And 119 of those came on seven catches by Gronkowski in his third game since missing the first six recovering from surgeries on his left forearm and back. He finished with a career-high nine catches for 143 yards.
He caught his 19-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 gone in the second quarter as the Patriots took a 14-0 lead.
"It felt great out there," Gronkowski said. "It was important for us to play this way. Until now, we hadn't been clicking for all four quarters."
The Steelers wasted a solid performance by Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 28 of 48 passes for 400 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We're all angry and disappointed," Roethlisberger said, Brady "is good, so you know that your mistakes have to be limited."