NBC was ready for some football, and so were the viewers.
Roger Goodell might not have been happy about Tom Brady's overturned suspension, but the National Football League broadcaster was surely happy to see the New England Patriots star Thursday night.
The Patriots' 28-21 win in a rain-soaked Gillette Stadium over the Pittsburgh Steelers drew 27.4 million viewers and a 16.2 household rating, which makes it the the second-highest opening NFL kickoff game since the league began the format in 2002. It was the most-watched show on television since April's NCAA men's basketball championship (28.3 million viewers). The game peaked with 30.2 million viewers and a 17.5 rating from 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET.
The game finished just behind 2010's opener, when then defending champion the New Orleans Saints defeated Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. Compared to last year's opener—a 36-16 bludgeoning of the Green Bay Packers by the Seattle Seahawks—Thursday's game was up 1 percent in viewers and 3 percent in the ratings.
The Super Bowl champion Patriots spent all offseason weathering the deflategate scandal and earlier this week were the subject of a bombshell report from ESPN regarding years-long suspicion about skirting the rules. This included a very public battle between Goodell and Brady that featured a four-game suspension for his role in deflategate. The suspension was overturned last week.
And wouldn't you know it, Thursday night's game also featured another accusation of the Patriots doing something nefarious. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin complained after the game that he and the other Steelers coaches heard the Patriots' radio broadcast "for the majority of the first half" on their headsets, impeding their ability to communicate with each other.