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Monday, September 26, 2005 

Winning Drive

Even great teams shouldn't be expected to win games like the Patriots won yesterday. I felt that the Steelers already had a slight edge with the injuries in the Patriots secondary, and the early injury to Rodney Harrison appeared to be a decisive blow. But New England was able to regroup, and controlled the game in the second half en route to a 23-20 win. Both teams made plenty of mistakes, as the Patriots' Kevin Faulk lost two big fumbles in the red zone and Tom Brady had a tipped-ball interception, while the Steelers cost themselves 3 points on a penalty and fumbled away another chance when Antwaan Randle El foolishly tried to lateral to Hines Ward.

Pittsburgh nearly made up for their mistakes by making some big plays in the final few minutes. First, Ike Taylor stopped Kevin Faulk on a third down play to force New England to kick a field goal that only extended their lead to 7 points. Then, Pittsburgh got a great kickoff return to midfield - showing once again that the Patriots really need to work on special teams. Finally, Roethlisberger, who was just 6 of 17 at one point, completed 6 of his final 11 passes and made a good throw to draw a questionable pass interference call to set up the tying touchdown. In my opinion, if both players grab and/or push off each other, it shouldn't be a penalty, but it also depends on what the official can see from his angle.

But Tom Brady drove the Patriots right down the field again, as he did for most of the day, ending up 31 for 41 with 371 yards. Adam Vinateri then adding the game-winning kick with one second left, as the Steelers failed to call their last timeout to save more time.

Long term, the injuries to Harrison and Matt Light may be very costly, but for one day at least, the Patriots coaching staff was able to patch together a very solid effort.

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