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Old 11-30-2008, 09:36 PM   #1
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Default Cassel Is Hit Hard as Steelers Knock Around Patriots

Steelers 33, Patriots 10
Cassel Is Hit Hard as Steelers Knock Around Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Two consecutive 400-yard passing games had New England Patriots fans so giddy about quarterback Matt Cassel that in the hours before Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the radio chatter centered on whether the Patriots should trade Tom Brady.

Back to reality, Patriots fans. Playing in a heavy, cold rain, the Steelers physically overwhelmed the Patriots, with linebacker James Harrison forcing Cassel to fumble on consecutive third-quarter drives, a stretch that included three fumbles in nine touches and that swung the momentum to the Steelers, propelling them to a 33-10 victory.

It has been several years since the Patriots were manhandled like this — even their lopsided loss to the Dolphins this season did not have this kicked-in-the-teeth quality. They turned the ball over five times, including two interceptions by Cassel. They converted once on 13 third-down opportunities. Receiver Wes Welker and linebacker Pierre Woods were knocked from the game by jarring hits. They allowed 161 yards rushing, and in the third quarter, the Patriots’ offense managed just 5 yards.

“There was some bad football out there,” said receiver Randy Moss, who had two drops, including one that would have been a touchdown.

Even though the Steelers had beaten the Patriots just once in their last seven meetings — including two playoff losses — the victory meant less to the Steelers’ postseason chances than the loss did to the Patriots’.

With a month left in the season, the Patriots have left themselves little room for error as they wasted a chance to tie the Jets, who lost to Denver, atop the American Football Conference East. At 7-5 and tied with the Dolphins for second place, the Patriots are a game behind Indianapolis and Baltimore for a wild-card spot.

They have four winnable games — their toughest opponent is Arizona — in the final month but the most disturbing development might have been that they did not look very good against one of the A.F.C.’s top teams. The Steelers’ victory keeps them a game ahead of the Ravens in the A.F.C. North and, for now, at 9-3, they would be the second seed behind Tennessee in the A.F.C. playoffs, with a first-round bye.

Cassel’s rapid development after Brady was lost for the season in Week 1 has kept the Patriots afloat far longer than most observers expected. But the Patriots were sloppier than they have been most of the season. And Cassel, who had not played in wintry conditions, was undone by one of the N.F.L.’s better defenses. (one of the NFL's "better" defenses. Stupid writer the PatsiCheats were undone by the NFL's BEST defense. - mesa)

With the Patriots forced to pass more in the second half, the Steelers unloaded on Cassel. Harrison went around left tackle Matt Light for both of his strip sacks, which kept the Steelers in the game until their struggling offense could right itself. Cassel was sacked five times and had four turnovers on four consecutive drives, the last one an interception by Lawrence Timmons that was returned 89 yards to the 1-yard line. With that, the drenched Patriots fans turned and headed for the parking lot.

“Once guys started hitting him, he wasn’t as comfortable,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “I guess sometimes they get a little rattled. When James forced the fumbles, their whole offense was probably a little rattled.”

Given the short field, the Steelers scored 30 unanswered points and their two-headed running game — which Coach Mike Tomlin said was by design, not a reflection of Willie Parker’s health — should give opponents pause as the weather turns.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been uneven throughout the season, a victim of poor protection and too many interceptions. But in what he called one of the worst weather games he had played in, he threw two touchdown passes and only one interception, which came on the game’s first drive.

“It felt good to have those opportunities and to have the ball bounce our way,” Roethlisberger said. “You just get to the sideline, put your coat on, your hat on, and all of a sudden you’re ready to go back on the field.”

Pittsburgh has a brutal schedule the rest of the way, with games against Dallas, Baltimore, Tennessee and Cleveland, but the Patriots had been a particular bugaboo for the Steelers all these years.

“We heard a lot of talk this week about this being a rivalry,” Tomlin said. “It hadn’t been much of a rivalry. In order to be a rivalry you’ve got to win some.”

Finally, they did.
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cassel Is Hit Hard as Steelers Knock Around Patriots

Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
“There was some bad football out there,” said receiver Randy Moss, who had two drops, including one that would have been a touchdown.
Sorry but that would not have been a TD. Moss would have only had 1 foot in when coming down. Still a big drop by Moss though. I could read that article all day. Thanks for sharing Mesa.
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