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Patriots beat Steelers to earn a record ninth Super Bowl trip

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By now, they know how to line up for the team picture.

By now, they know how to handle their week.

By now, they are used to the confetti falling.

For the Atlanta Falcons, this Super Bowl is new territory. But the New England Patriots have been here a lot. This will be their ninth journey to the big game, and with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Falcons have their chore cut out for them.

The Patriots earned their latest trip Sunday evening with a 36-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a relatively routine win by New England. Once again, it was Tom Terrific, aka Brady, who threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

New England took a 10-0 lead and led 17-9 at the half. The Patriots outscored Pittsburgh 16-0 in the third period to break open the game.

“They work hard,” New England coach Bill Belichick said of his team. “They’re unselfish, and they’re tough. The players played hard, played smart and didn’t turn the ball over.”

The Patriots got a huge game from Chris Hogan, who caught nine passes for 180 yards — identical to Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 118 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards in the loss. But the Steelers, who lost Le’Veon Bell to an injury, gained only 54 yards on the ground.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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