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Patriots score their first opening-drive touchdown of the season

"It was awesome": Bailey Zappe all smiles after Patriots escape with win over Steelers
"It was awesome": Bailey Zappe all smiles after Patriots escape with win over Steelers 01:39

BOSTON -- It only took 14 weeks into the season, but the Patriots finally scored an opening-drive touchdown.

After being shut out against the Chargers last Sunday, New England's offense went the distance on their opening drive in a 21-18 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Bailey Zappe and company orchestrated an 8-play, 75-yard drive to find paydirt and give the Patriots an early 7-0 lead.

The biggest play of the drive was a 37-yard connection between Zappe and former Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster, which got the Patriots to the Pittsburgh 26-yard line. 

"That set the tone for our offense," Smith-Schuster said after Thursday's win.

Five plays later, Zappe hit Ezekiel Elliott with a short pass that the veteran running back took in for an 11-yard score. Elliott had 23 yards on two receptions on the drive.

"Always great to see," Bill Belichick said of that opening-drive score. "Always great to see the offense get in the end zone."

Zappe was the team's leading rusher on the drive, scampering 11 yards on a third-and-nine to keep things going for the Patriots. The QB was 3-for-4 for 60 yards through the air on the drive, and credited Smith-Schuster's catch for building his confidence early in the game.

"It comes from those guys. They help me out a lot. They deserve… we deserve today," Zappe said after the win. "To have this moment with these guys and to have the game we had, it's awesome."

Zappe ended up throwing three touchdown passes in the first half as New England built a 21-3 lead.

"I saw a very confident quarterback. A guy out there having fun and being himself," Smith-Schuster said of Zappe's performance Thursday night. "He was zipping it around and making the best of our opportunities."

Al Michaels called New England's opening drive "a stunning beginning" on the game's broadcast, which was an understatement. The Patriots scored just 13 points in their previous three games, and weren't expected to do much offensively against the Steelers' defense.

But the Patriots had other plans, putting together one of their best drives of the season. Especially for a team that had very little success putting up points right after the opening kickoff.

The Patriots' offense have had six of its opening drives end in punts so far this season, including five following a three-and-out. Four other opening drives ended with a field goal, while Week 1's opening drive ended with a pick-six and Week 9's first possession ended on downs after 11 plays.

Thursday night's score was just New England's second touchdown since Nov. 5.

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