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Patriots throttle Steelers 36-17, will face Falcons in Super Bowl LI

The New England Patriots saved their most impressive win for their most important game of the season, steadily pulling away from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 36-17 victory at Gillette Stadium that sends Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to their seventh Super Bowl as a duo.

Pittsburgh's offense was sapped of its heart and soul when Le'Veon Bell left the game with a groin injury in the second quarter, marking the third straight year they've been knocked out of the playoffs with their All-Pro back sidelined due to injury. But the reasoning for this loss went beyond the loss of Bell.

The defense was surgically picked apart by Tom Brady, who totaled 384 passing yards and three touchdowns. Chris Hogan hauled in two of them and compiled a Patriots playoff record 180 receiving yards. It was also a postseason record for most receiving yards in a game by an undrafted player. And LeGarette Blount powered to a tough 47 yards capped off by a one-yard touchdown plunge.

Meanwhile, Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown (seven receptions, 77 yards) had a largely forgettable game. He had made headlines for broadcasting a postgame locker room speech by coach Mike Tomlin over Facebook Live after Pittsburgh's divisional round win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

PIttsburgh didn't muster a touchdown until the game was decided in the fourth quarter, ending an eight-quarter scoreless skid. It was a sobering way to end a nine-game winning streak.

The Patriots, meanwhile, are now on a nine-game run of their own ahead of their Super Bowl LI matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. Winning that game in Houston at NRG Stadium would be the fifth championship claimed by the most dominant coach-quarterback combination of this generation -- and maybe, of all time.

10 PHOTOS
The best photos from NFL Divisional Round playoff games
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The best photos from NFL Divisional Round playoff games
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Micah Hyde #33, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21, and Josh Hawkins #28 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate in the second half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Jared Cook #89 of the Green Bay Packers makes a catch while being defended by Morris Claiborne #24 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Jan 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is knocked into the end zone for a safety by the Atlanta Falcons during the second quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Running back Spencer Ware #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs spikes the ball after a touchdown run against Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts as he runs onto the field prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers tackles Terrance Williams #83 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley catches a first down pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell in the fourth quarter during the AFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler (19) cannot make the catch during the NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers on January 15, 2017, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Green Bay defeats Dallas 34-31. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 14: New England Patriots fans watching action during the Houston Texans Vs New England Patriots Divisional round game during the NFL play-offs on January 14th, 2017 at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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