In Steel City, Pats' Brady again shows his mettle

ON THE NFL

Gameday

September 26, 2005|By KEN MURRAY

Memo to Joey Porter: Tom Brady doesn't rattle.

Not in Pittsburgh, not in games that count, not in games that don't count.

Porter, the Steelers' talkative outside linebacker, should know better than to challenge the New England Patriots' Pro Bowl quarterback.

Last week, Porter made this comment to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"Yeah, I think [Brady] can be rattled. Anybody in the league can be rattled. I don't want to say he's that cool. Yeah, he definitely can be rattled; we rattled him before."

Brady's answer?

He was 12-for-12 for 168 yards in the fourth quarter yesterday in a game waiting to be won. While Ben Roethlisberger's passes wobbled through the night air at Heinz Field, rarely finding their targets, Brady was perfect and the Patriots were, well, the Patriots in a scintillating 23-20 victory.

They lost two key starters. They turned the ball over three times, twice in the red zone. They gave up an 85-yard pass play in the first quarter and didn't get the lead back until the fourth quarter.

Still, even without injured safety Rodney Harrison and left tackle Matt Light, the Patriots bullied the Steelers in their backyard and ended any speculation that the rest of the league has finally caught up to New England.

The Steelers were in trouble as early as last week, when the Patriots lost to the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots haven't lost two games in a row in 36 weeks, not since weeks 14 and 15 of the 2002 season, the last time they failed to make the playoffs.

Brady wouldn't let it happen again. He threw 41 passes in Pittsburgh, completing 31 for 372 yards and one interception. Even when the Steelers ended the Patriots' 18-game regular-season winning streak last season, Brady thew for 271 yards. Rattle Brady? Not in Porter's lifetime.

The second guess

As great as Carnell Williams has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's hard to imagine the rookie running back lasting 16 games. Coach Jon Gruden is so ecstatic to finally have a legitimate runner that he's already rushed Cadillac 87 times in three weeks - nearly 30 a game. That rookie wall will come up pretty quickly if that keeps up.

Do you think Denver coach Mike Shanahan might question his decision to embarrass cornerback Deltha O'Neal two years ago by making him play wide receiver? Since landing in Cincinnati, O'Neal has picked off eight passes in 15 games. He got his fourth of the year in the Bengals' win at Chicago and now has 23 for his career.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is holding up well under difficult circumstances. He was sacked four times by the Tennessee Titans, running his season total to 15. That's a pace that would produce 80 sacks and break David Carr's single-season league record of 76. Last year, Bulger was sacked 41 times. Coach Mike Martz might want to consider keeping an extra blocker in a little more often.

Steve Smith is one of the NFL's most exciting receivers and the best weapon the Carolina Panthers have. But he's the only one they have in the passing game and that is ominous. Smith, who caught 11 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns against the Dolphins, has 23 catches so far. No other Panthers' wide receiver has more than four (Ricky Proehl). A good defense can always take away a one-dimensional passing game and gain the advantage.

Hot reads

Miami coach Nick Saban already has changed the Dolphins' mind-set. They're going to beat some more good teams this season.

Bears quarterback Kyle Orton got a little careless throwing the ball against the Bengals. You can't do that against Cincinnati anymore.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has to be the best in the league. He kept Oakland's Randy Moss out of the end zone, and stuffed running back LaMont Jordan, who had 19 yards on 16 carries, in the Eagles' overtime win.

Former Ravens receiver Travis Taylor helped the Minnesota Vikings get their first victory with two touchdown catches in the first quarter against New Orleans.

Chad Johnson's boasts with the Bengals are innocent enough, but he's walking a tightrope with some of the things he says.

The Colts are the only team that hasn't allowed a sack this season. Amazingly, Peyton Manning has thrown as many interceptions (two) as touchdown passes.

Spare me the sympathy for Packers quarterback Brett Favre. He knew what he was coming back to when the team let both of his guards go in free agency.

Running back Shaun Alexander, a free-agent-to-be, can smell the money this year with the Seattle Seahawks. He scored four touchdowns in a rout of Arizona.

Since 1990, only three teams have overcome an 0-3 start to make the playoffs - the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the 1995 Detroit Lions and the 1998 Buffalo Bills. None got past the second round.

The Dallas Cowboys dodged a major hit with their second-half comeback in San Francisco. Coach Bill Parcells would have been intolerable for the rest of the season if they had lost to the 49ers.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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