Brady, Vinatieri show winning drive again

New England QB completes final 12 passes in fourth quarter to lead rally

Patriots 23 Steelers 20

Nfl Gameday

Week Three

September 26, 2005

PITTSBURGH — All of this seemed to be too much, even for a New England Patriots team that always wins big games. The injuries. A second-half deficit. A Pittsburgh Steelers team determined to show it is now the AFC's best team.

Not yet, they're not - not after giving Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri a chance to beat them in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots, badly depleted by injuries, withstood the longest scoring pass play against them in 15 years and two turnovers inside the Pittsburgh 10 to rally in the fourth quarter behind Brady, beating the Steelers, 23-20, yesterday on Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal with one second remaining.

"They showed us today why they're the champs," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said.

It's also why the Patriots have won three of the past four Super Bowls.

New England, trailing for most of the game, led 20-13 late in the fourth quarter when a pass interference call on Chad Scott on a fourth-and-11 play set up Ben Roethlisberger's second scoring pass to Hines Ward, a 4-yarder that tied it with 1:21 remaining.

But that was too much time for Brady, the NFL's best late-in-the-game quarterback, and Vinatieri, its best clutch kicker.

"Our coaches always get us in situations where we can make plays," said David Givens, who made nine catches for 130 yards. "There always seems to be time for us to come back."

Brady, shouldering most of the offense, completed his last 12 passes and went 31-for-41 for 372 yards and Corey Dillon, all but absent the week before in a 27-17 loss at Carolina, scored twice on short runs to help end Pittsburgh's 16-game winning streak. Dillon's 7-yard run early in the fourth made it 17-13 - New England's first lead since 7-0 on Dillon's 4-yard run on its first possession.

The Patriots won in the same stadium where their own record 18-game regular-season streak ended last season with a 34-20 loss on Oct. 31. They came back 2 1/2 months later and manhandled the Steelers, 41-27, in the AFC championship game.

Just as in that game, the Patriots (2-1) all but took away Pittsburgh's running game - Willie Parker, coming off consecutive 100-yard games, was held to 55 yards - and forced Roethlisberger to try to beat them.

The Steelers also didn't help themselves when, early in the second, Antwaan Randle El tried pitching the ball to Ward as he was about to be tackled on a 49-yard gain to the New England 11. Randle El's errant toss was recovered by the Patriots.

"It was a bonehead play," Randle El said. "The team rule is, if you're going to try that play, you'd better make it."

Roethlisberger, who hasn't lost to any other team in 18 NFL starts, counting the postseason, wasn't much better than he was in that AFC title game loss, when he threw three interceptions. Under a heavy rush, he went 12-for-28 for 216 yards in his first loss in 16 regular-season starts, despite going against a badly depleted Patriots defense.

Already without three injured cornerbacks, including starter Tyrone Poole, the Patriots lost backup cornerback Duane Starks on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage, though he returned later. Then, after allowing an 85-yard touchdown reception by Ward, safety Rodney Harrison and left tackle Matt Light went down with leg injuries.

Harrison was driven to the team bus on a cart, and Light was seen with a cast on his right leg.

New England 7 0 0 16-23

Pittsburgh 10 0 3 7-20

First quarter NE-Dillon 4 run (Vinatieri kick), 9:47. Pit-Ward 85 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick), 9:32. Pit-FG Reed 33, 4:42.

Third quarter Pit-FG Reed 24, 6:08. NE-FG Vinatieri 48, :14.

Fourth quarter NE-Dillon 7 run (Vinatieri kick), 10:37. NE-FG Vinatieri 35, 3:19. Pit-Ward 4 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick), 1:21. NE-FG Vinatieri 43, :01. A-64,868.

NE Pit

First downs 24 14

Total Net Yards 425 269

Rushes-yards 30-79 23-79

Passing 346 190

Punt Returns 4-55 3-20

Kickoff Returns 5-128 4-79

Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-5

Comp-Att-Int 31-41-1 12-28-0

Sacked-Yards Lost 3-26 4-26

Punts 4-45.0 6-44.2

Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1

Penalties-Yards 10-118 5-35

Time of Possession 35:23 24:37 Rushing-New England, Dillon 22-61, Faulk 7-13, Pass 1-5. Pittsburgh, Parker 17-55, Roethlisberger 3-17, Haynes 2-7, Wilson 1-0. Passing-New England, Brady 31-41-1-372. Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 12-28-0-216. Receiving-New England, Givens 9-130, Faulk 7-71, Branch 6-78, Brown 4-43, Dillon 2-23, Pass 1-14, Watson 1-10, Johnson 1-3. Pittsburgh, Ward 4-110, Randle El 2-56, Wilson 2-16, Haynes 1-18, Miller 1-13, Morgan 1-9, Parker 1-(minus 6). Missed field goals-New England, Vinatieri 53 (WL). Pittsburgh, Reed 52 (WL).

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