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  • DJRamFan
    started a topic [Patriots] Busted at 21

    [Patriots] Busted at 21

    A continuation of Patriot streak is not in cards
    By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Their baseball brothers, the Red Sox, are proof that all streaks must end, winning the World Series last week after an 86-year drought. So as if to balance the slate, the sports gods yesterday looked down upon New England and said, "Do not be greedy."

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    Thus, the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak ended. The Team That Could Not Lose finally met its match in the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-20, before a record-breaking Heinz Field crowd of 64,737.

    There were no excuses from anyone in the Patriots locker room as to why they lost for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003, to the Steve Spurrier-coached Washington Redskins.

    That's because the Steelers played very much in their tradition, dominating the trenches, creating mistakes, and smashing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the mouth every chance they got.

    "I wish we could play again tomorrow," said New England defensive end Willie McGinest. "We're not going to make any excuses, like blame the refs, or injuries, or anything like that. It's disappointing we got our butts kicked and got outplayed. We have to come in tomorrow and look in the mirror and make sure each and every one of us can see what we did to add to this. It's not the end of the world. We have time to come back from this."

    The Steelers forced turnovers -- four of them -- which led to Pittsburgh scores. Two were caused by linebacker Jerry Porter, who played an emotional game, saying he was fired up by words McGinest uttered to him before the opening kickoff.

    If that was the case he made the Patriots pay big time, and young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (18 for 24 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.4 rating) looked as calm and collected as a guy named Bradshaw in picking apart the wounded Patriots secondary.

    They didn't make excuses, but the Patriots were missing starting running back Corey Dillon, had to use a makeshift offensive line with starting right tackle Tom Ashworth out with a back ailment, and then lost left tackle Matt Light, who got the wind knocked out of him.

    The Patriots also lost cornerback Ty Law to a foot injury in the third series of the game, and when rookie free agent Randall Gay replaced him, the Steelers went right at him and made the Patriots pay.

    But in the past, the Patriots had never missed a beat because of injuries.

    "We've lost players to injuries before," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "We play as a team. Whoever is in the game has to do their part. That's the way we do it around here."

    With Dillon out, New England ran the ball six times for 5 yards, forcing Brady to throw it 43 times. The defense allowed the Steelers to romp over them for 221 yards on 49 carries, 125 of which came from Duce Staley on 25 carries. Jerome Bettis, who ran for 65 more yards on 15 carries after totaling 64 yards in the first six games, was effective in the fourth quarter.

    Time of possession was 42:58 to 17:02 in favor of the Steelers, who amassed 417 yards in total offense to 248 for the Patriots.

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    Would things have been different if Dillon or Law had played?

    "I couldn't forecast how [Dillon] was going to play," said Brady, who threw for 271 yards but was picked off twice and sacked four times. "Corey's absence didn't force me into fumbling the ball."

    No curses or outside forces at work here. Just a plain old "butt-whipping" as linebacker Mike Vrabel would call it.

    Dexter Reid had a chance to pin the Steelers inside the 5-yard line on a punt early in the first quarter, but instead, Josh Miller's booming punt tricked through the end zone for a touchback.

    It was a big break for the Steelers, who converted their first touchdown on the same series when Law turned the wrong way on coverage of Hines Ward and went down in a heap. Two plays later, Roethlisberger tossed a 47-yard bomb to Plaxico Burress over Gay, who was in one-on-one coverage. The touchdown, with 3:46 remaining in the first, gave the Steelers a 7-3 lead they would not relinquish.

    "It was an all-out blitz," said Roethlisberger. "You have to give the line a lot of credit, because there shouldn't have been time like that. I saw Plaxico running with a guy on him and I just tried to throw it as far as I could."

    Porter wreaked havoc on Brady on the Patriots' next possession, blitzing, sacking Brady, and forcing the ball loose at the Patriots' 27. After four running plays by Staley, Roethlisberger found Burress in the end zone from 4 yards out over Eugene Wilson. The Patriots challenged the diving sideline catch, but it was upheld. Just like that, it was 14-3, and the bad times just wouldn't end.

    Brady's first play of the next series wound up in the hands of right corner Deshea Townsend, who stepped in front of Bethel Johnson, who had slipped, and took off down the right sideline. His 39-yard score with 13 seconds left in the first made it 21-3.

    "They all hurt," said coach Bill Belichick of the turnovers. "Seven hurt, 14 hurt, 21 hurt. 14-3 would have been more manageable than 21-3. When we turn the ball over and we can't stop them on top of that, we're dead."

    But after winning 21 straight, this team never seems dead.

    Sure, Brady threw another pick on a long pass intended for Johnson in the second quarter, and that led to a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 2:06 left in the half, upping the ante to 24-3. But the Steelers committed a big no-no before the end of the half. Playing in a prevent defense, they allowed Brady to put up a touchdown in a two-minute offense, his 2-yard pass finding David Givens with 42 seconds remaining.

    That momentum just didn't carry over.

    In fact, Porter created what might have been the biggest turnover of all in the third quarter. He hit Kevin Faulk so hard on a dump-off pass, that Faulk coughed up the ball at the Patriot 17. The Steelers scored four plays later, with Bettis getting into the end zone for the eighth time this season on a 2-yard run with 13:06 left in the third.

    "Once we had the lead, we knew they were going to pass the ball," Porter said. "You have a quarterback who's not going to run out of the pocket [Brady]. You can kind of rush any way you want. I was trying to take advantage of my opportunities."

    The Steelers just kept churning up the yardage on the ground while taking ticks off the clock. The Patriots desperately tried to come back, Brady and Givens connecting on a 23-yard score with 6:33 to play.

    But there would be no heroics. Their baseball brothers had done that for the region; it was time for the Patriots to take the hit.

    Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Struggling Brady lives to fight another day
    by DJRamFan
    By Joe Burris, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady got the Patriots off to their usual start yesterday. The quarterback advanced New England steadily downfield on its first drive of the game, and though the drive ended with an Adam Vinatieri 43-yard field goal with 11:39 left in the first quarter, it marked the 15th straight game in which the Patriots scored first.

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    Yet the Patriots repeatedly have insisted that you can't base many conclusions on who scores first, and yesterday proved them correct.

    How decisively did fortune change for Brady & Co.? Consider that with 13 seconds left in the quarter, Brady had a pass intercepted by cornerback Deshea Townsend and returned 39 yards for a touchdown to put Pittsburgh ahead, 21-3, marking the first time the Patriots had allowed 21 points in a quarter since the third quarter against Chicago Nov. 10, 2002.

    The interception also marked the second time in as many drives that the Patriots lined up in an empty-backfield set, and the second time it resulted in a turnover that led to a touchdown.

    On the first play of the previous drive, Brady fumbled while being sacked by linebacker Joey Porter. Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen recovered. Five plays later, Pittsburgh scored on a 4-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Plaxico Burress to put the Steelers ahead, 14-3.

    "That was the last empty backfield you saw, 0 for 2," said Brady, who tried in vain to lead a team minus its leading rusher, Corey Dillon, who missed the game because of a thigh injury. Brady said, however, that even with Dillon in the lineup, the Patriots would have had their hands full.

    "I think we had a game plan . . . and we just didn't execute the game plan," he said. "No matter if Corey's in there or if Corey's not in there, we still expect to go out there and play. Corey didn't force me to fumble that ball. You have to go with the guys you've got, try to run the ball and take advantage of throwing the ball.

    "We just didn't play the way we're capable," added Brady. "When you don't play the way you're capable against a good team, you lose."

    Brady's performance underscores the point that as he goes, so does New England. Yesterday, he completed 25 of 43 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice and sacked four times for 28 yards.

    The interception that was returned by Townsend marked the first time the Patriots had allowed a defensive touchdown since the 2003 season opener, when Buffalo's Sam Adams returned an interception 37 yards for a score in the Bills' 31-0 triumph. Those miscues, and a balanced Steelers offense, led to the Patriots' first defeat in 22 games.

    "I think the feeling is we have to get back to winning football, playing well and...
    -11-01-2004, 10:51 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Steelers snap Patriots' record winning streak
    by DJRamFan
    By Bob Ryan, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- To the question of whether it would end with a bang or a whimper, here is the unequivocal numerical answer: Pittsburgh 34, New England 20.

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    ''It was pretty clear the Steelers were the better team," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ''They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They certainly deserved to win, and they won convincingly."

    Thus ended yesterday an almost unimaginable football feat. The New England Patriots had gone 21 games and 13 calendar months without losing a game, and had become the National Football League champions for the second time by winning the Super Bowl last February. But their bid to make it 22 victories in succession ended under ideal conditions on a late afternoon when the Steelers delighted a franchise record gathering of 64,737 with a truly inspired performance.

    To the end, the Patriots stayed relentlessly on message regarding their endless succession of victories. The word ''streak" had been officially banned from their vocabularies by Belichick. In the team's pregame notes, the media was informed that "The Patriots have recorded a one-game winning streak 21 consecutive times, setting an all-time record for the 85-year history of pro football." "It was never about the streak," said linebacker Mike Vrabel. "It was not in our preparation this week."

    Week after week the Patriots had, as the pundits like to say, "found a way to win." This time, however, they submitted a brilliant formula for defeat, combining a sputtering offense with a defense that allowed a disturbing 417 yards, of which a whopping 221 came on the ground. Four turnovers led to 24 Pittsburgh points.

    "We didn't do anything near the way we are capable of doing it, and they played an outstanding game" said Belichick. "That's the result you get when those two forces collide."

    There is nothing disgraceful about losing to the Steelers. Pittsburgh is a good team. The Steelers entered the game with a 5-1 record and they regarded this game as something akin to an mid-semester exam. They always have enjoyed the backing of a raucous crowd. No one ever looks forward to playing in Pittsburgh. This was true when they played in Three Rivers Stadium, and it remains true now that they play in the outstanding facility known as Heinz Field.

    The problem is that the Patriots feel they didn't give themselves much of an opportunity to win this particular game. "We knew that, eventually, we were going to lose a game," said safety Rodney Harrison. "But we don't want to lose in that fashion."

    The Patriots started the game the way they normally do, which is to say they scored first. Pittsburgh won the toss and elected to receive. The Patriots got them off the field quickly,...
    -11-01-2004, 10:46 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Defense missed the stop signs
    by DJRamFan
    By Joe Burris, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Patriots cornerback Ty Law yesterday suffered a left foot injury at the 4:52 mark of the first quarter. Initially, he tried to continue playing, but then signaled for help. And as he limped off the field the Patriots' chances of slowing the Pittsburgh offense may have gone with him.

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    He was spelled by rookie Randall Gay and it didn't take much to figure what was coming next. Pittsburgh became opportunistic. Gay became a moving target.

    Two plays later, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 47-yard pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who was covered by Gay. Burress leaped over the defensive back and caught the ball in the end zone for the game's first touchdown, giving the Steelers a 7-3 advantage with 3:46 left in the first.

    That marked the beginning of a poor defensive performance by a unit that ended up yielding 27 points. In its previous three games, New England allowed 37 points combined.

    Law's departure was far from the unit's only problem. Steelers running back Duce Staley rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries for his fourth 100-yard performance in the Steelers' last five games. And goal-line specialist Jerome Bettis, who had a total of 64 yards on 37 carries entering the game, rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries.

    Burress's touchdown was the Steelers' longest pass reception of the day, yet he was among three Pittsburgh receivers to post catches of at least 20 yards. That helped the Steelers more than double the Patriots' time of possession in the first half (20:38 to 9:22).

    "We came out and we didn't play well at all," said Patriots safety and leading tackler Rodney Harrison, who posted a game-high 18 stops (10 solo). "We made a lot of mental errors. It wasn't good and they [took] full advantage of our mistakes."

    Burress said the Steelers' intent was to attack Gay immediately.

    "It's like they say, when there's blood in the water, you have to go after them," he said. "We knew that Ty went down and that they were a man short. We just went after them as far as throwing the football."

    Burress followed his first touchdown with another score while being covered by Eugene Wilson with 29 seconds left in the first quarter to put Pittsburgh ahead, 14-3. Deshea Townsend then scored on an interception return for a touchdown to put the Patriots down by 18.

    The 21 first-quarter points was unusual for a team that had yielded 21 points in a contest just five times during its 21-game winning streak.

    "Guys were just saying, `Let's continue to fight, the game's not over until it's over,' " said Harrison. "We had opportunities and we just didn't capitalize one them."

    Pittsburgh finished with 417 yards of total...
    -11-01-2004, 10:54 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] The breakdown? A system failure
    by DJRamFan
    By Ron Borges | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Whatever the Patriots practiced last Friday isn't likely to be the topic of Bill Belichick's news conference today.

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    Belichick went to some lengths to offer up unsolicited last Monday how the Patriots had practiced two days earlier "exactly the situation" his team faced the previous day against the Jets just before halftime, when it marched downfield for what proved to be the winning touchdown. This was not the first time Belichick had talked after a victory of some prescient moment he'd had during one of the team's closed practices a day or two before a game. Always, it seemed, whatever they'd practiced miraculously came to fruition when it counted.

    Well, unless they practiced picking their quarterback up off the ground last Friday, there couldn't have been much they worked on last week that had anything to do with what occurred yesterday at Heinz Field, where the Steelers manhandled the previously undefeated Patriots, 34-20.

    Poor Tom Brady was pummeled all afternoon and so was New England's run defense. So, too, was the prevailing theory that rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be so mentally taxed by Belichick's schemes and mind-numbing defensive game plan that he would be reduced to a rubber room by halftime. That latter idea went up in smoke when by that point his quarterback rating was 141.7 and his team was leading, 24-10.

    One loss does not a season break, however, and it should be noted this one came with Belichick's troops depleted with running back Corey Dillon, tackle Tom Ashworth, wide receiver Deion Branch, and cornerback Tyrone Poole out before the game began, and cornerback Ty Law and tackle Matt Light joining them on the sideline by halftime. What this may lead to, though, is a shocking lesson for some of the Patriots' more rabid followers.

    Simply put, systems without their best players executing them are considerably less baffling to their opponents than systems with their best players executing them. Asking Law to demonstrate your genius is one thing. Ask Randall Gay to do it and you better have something around to put out the flames.

    Gay, an undrafted rookie free agent, had played well in limited roles the past few weeks but when Law went down with Poole already out Gay was forced to play cornerback for real, which is to say actually on the corner. Just two plays after Gay entered the game, Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress entered the end zone with a 47-yard touchdown catch that made it 7-3. Pittsburgh never trailed again.

    "We know when a player like Ty Law goes out of a game," Roethlisberger said. "It's one of those things where we have to keep an eye on who's over there. I said `Let's get the ball to Plaxico.'

    Remarkable though it may seem to some, although not to Brady, he could...
    -11-01-2004, 10:50 AM
  • Nick
    Patriots lose third straight game
    by Nick
    FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- New England coach Bill Belichick rested his regulars and Jacksonville routed the remaining Patriots.

    The Jaguars beat the Super Bowl champs 31-0 Thursday night behind three touchdown passes from Quinn Gray and one from David Garrard, all in the fourth quarter.

    But starting quarterback Byron Leftwich was disappointed he didn't face the Patriots' first-stringers in the exhibition finale for both teams.

    "You want to compete against those guys, because when you leave the game you will be better," Leftwich said. But, he added, "you understand because they've got a game in a week."

    The regulars played an unusually long time in last Saturday's 20-17 loss at Carolina and open the season next Thursday night at home against Indianapolis, while other teams start next weekend.

    "Any time you have the Colts coming to town, it's not a bad thing to get some rest," said Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

    None of the 22 offensive and defensive first-stringers played, but the Patriots (1-3) trailed just 3-0 after three quarters.

    The Jaguars (3-1) ended the exhibition season without a touchdown from their first-string offense, but coach Jack Del Rio wasn't worried.

    "I'm not really concerned," he said. "You would like to be a little more explosive in these preseason games, but overall I think we're going to have a good offense."

    Leftwich played just three series, going 4-for-8 for 24 yards. Starting running back Fred Taylor, who had a strained foot, didn't play.

    With Tom Brady charting plays on a clipboard, Rohan Davey played all but the Patriots' final series. The offensive player of the year in NFL Europe went 13-for-25 for 104 yards and two interceptions, but Belichick praised him.

    "Rohan did some good things," Belichick said. "He managed the game well. I thought he made a couple good throws that we weren't able to come up with."

    Kliff Kingsbury finished up at quarterback

    "I loved" playing so much, Davey said. "The only thing that could have been better would have been a win."

    The Patriots lost their third straight game, the others 31-3 at Cincinnati and 20-17 at Carolina. They enter the regular season with a 15-game winning streak covering the last regular season and playoffs.

    With Corey Dillon resting, Mike Cloud led New England rushers with 93 yards on 19 carries.

    The Jaguars committed no turnovers, while the Patriots had five, and outgained New England 451 yards to 222.

    "The two things I'm most excited about coming out of this preseason are turnovers and special teams," Del Rio said.

    After a scoreless first half, the Jaguars took a 3-0 lead on Josh Scobee's 31-yard...
    -09-02-2004, 10:51 PM
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