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With weeks of drama involving Tom Brady‘s (eventually) overturned four-game suspension for his role in deflating footballs last season, NBC’s coverage of the NFL season opener between the Super Bowl champion Pats and the Pittsburgh Steelers was the second-most watched opener in the 14-year history of the event.
With 27.4 million viewers tuning in (according to fast national data from Nielsen), the game almost matched the best NFL Kickoff ever. That would be the 2010 opener between the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints, with Brett Favre in his second and final season leading the Vikings, which pulled in 27.5 million viewers.
Last night’s game registered a national household rating of 16.2, also ranking second best among kickoff games behind 2010 (16.5), and rising three percent compared to last year’s opener (15.7).
Brady and the Pats took the field in Foxborough, Mass in front of a capacity crowd of more than 68,000 and would best Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers 28-21. NBC Sports analyst Al Michaels joked that the NFL of late has played like an episode of Law & Order. And the Foxborough fans, a notoriously rowdy bunch, chanted “Where is Roger,” chiding NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was conspicuously absent after his suspension of Brady was overturned in a surprise decision by a federal judge just eight days before the opener.
All the drama was enough to life last night’s game – which was looking like a rout at the half – 5 percent compared to last year’s metered market results. The top markets, not surprisingly, included Boston (39.5), Pittsburgh (34.5) and Providence (34). Baltimore (24.4) and Richmond (23.9) rounded out the top five.
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