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[Patriots] Defense missed the stop signs

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  • [Patriots] Defense missed the stop signs

    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 offense against a team that entered yielding an average of 326 yards. The Patriots allowed 25 first downs and allowed 56 percent (9 of 16) third-down efficiency.

    "[Law] is a big part of this defense, he's a large part of this defense, but as a player I don't look that deep into it, to say that because one of our defensive leaders went down, we threw the towel in," said linebacker Mike Vrabel. "I don't think that was the case; I think we just didn't make plays, regardless of who was out there."

    Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Busted at 21
    by DJRamFan
    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...
    -11-01-2004, 09:48 AM
  • 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, 09:51 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, 09:46 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Rookie QB makes them pay
    by DJRamFan
    Roethlisberger had the answers
    By Aaron Harlan, Globe Correspondent | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Just wait, the conventional thinking went.

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    Sure, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had sewn a dandy storyline in his first four NFL starts, but skeptics figured that hype would unravel against the New England defense -- a unit that's made the practice of unraveling quarterbacks more routine than a daily lunch break. But something unlikely happened yesterday when Roethlisberger braved the Patriots' blitz-and-confuse defense in a 34-20 Steelers win at Heinz Field. He didn't quiver. He didn't collapse. Instead, Roethlisberger looked poised and unflappable, completing 18 of 24 passes for 196 yards in a performance that may have helped the virtuoso rookie become the NFL's phenomenon du jour.

    If nothing else, the outing validated Roethlisberger among any remaining doubters. After throwing two incompletions to start the game, he completed 14 of his next 15 passes, as the Steelers built a quick three-touchdown lead.

    With help from running back Duce Staley, who bulled his way for 125 yards on 25 carries, the Steelers' passing game looked as sharp as the black ensemble Roethlisberger wore to his postgame media session.

    "He did a good job, no question," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said.

    And after the game, it was the Patriots -- not Roethlisberger --who were hit with a sudden trace of doubt. As New England's winning streak ended at 21, Roethlisberger, a No. 1 draft pick from Miami of Ohio, extended a streak of his own: He has won 18 starts in a row, dating to August of last season, when he was a college junior.

    Against the Patriots' defense, which constantly blitzed the rookie but never sacked him, Roethlisberger showed the whole spectrum of skills. He threw under pressure. He showed both zip and touch. He even ducked tackles, once shaking Mike Vrabel from his backside while scrambling. Roethlisberger entered the game second in the AFC in quarterback rating. His rating yesterday: 126.4.

    "It was definitely difficult," Roethlisberger said, though his actions screamed otherwise. "Their defense is very difficult. They're bringing people from all over the field."

    Roethlisberger, though, always resisted the pressure. On a play that led to Pittsburgh's first touchdown, New England ran an all-out blitz. Steelers wideout Plaxico Burress was matched opposite cornerback Randall Gay, playing for injured Ty Law.

    "He was just a lame duck out there," Burress said, smiling. "And we just kind of went after him."

    The Patriots went after Roethlisberger, too. As the pocket collapsed, he glanced downfield at a tight end, then rainbowed a pass to Burress, who beat Gay by several steps. The pass hit Burress in stride, and lifted...
    -11-01-2004, 09:52 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, 09:51 PM
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