for this game

Patriots beat up Steelers to stay perfect

Dec 10, 2007 - 2:34 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) - The New England Patriots did not let the new Steel Curtain come down on their perfect season.

Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes as the Patriots remained undefeated with a 34-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium.

Randy Moss had seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns as New England (13-0) clinched a first-round bye for the playoffs and drew within three games of the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history.

New England has home games against the New York Jets and winless Miami Dolphins before finishing the regular season at the New York Giants

Perhaps motivated by the guarantee of a win by Steelers safety Anthony Smith, Brady torched the Pittsburgh secondary by completing 32-of-46 attempts for 399 yards on the afternoon.

"I think he was trying to motivate his guys and I think him saying, 'We've seen the best receivers in the league.' Maybe that's their opinion," Brady said of Smith's guarantee.

Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said during the week he didn't know of the Steelers' second-year player.

"Rodney (Harrison) put it the best, so I'll just leave it at that," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "But we've played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you."

"Those comments don't mean anything," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin added. "At 4:15, what was said during the week was irrelevant. It is about what you do and how you play. After a performance like that, when they beat us up, then yes, you can point back to that comment."

Brady has 45 touchdowns on the season, the third-highest total in NFL history and four shy of Peyton Manning's all-time mark in 2004.

Moss caught a pair of scoring passes in a span of 1:59 and now has 19 touchdowns - a franchise record and second only to Jerry Rice's career NFL record of 22 for receivers set in 1987.

Smith attributed New England's success to some defensive breakdowns.

"We did not come out here to lose, we just gave up some big plays," Smith said. "That's what it came down to. They have a good offense but we just beat ourselves."

Ben Roethlisberger finished 19-of-32 for 187 yards and a TD for Pittsburgh (9-4), which had their two-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in seven games.

The Steelers hold a one-game lead the Cleveland Browns in the NFC North but they have swept the season series.

"I say that we look at the scoreboard and realize that we got outplayed and that they were the better team," Roethlisberger said. "We need to improve but the good thing for us is the season is not over and we still play next Sunday no matter what."

Pittsburgh took their opening drive and marched down the field, grinding out 59 yards over 15 plays. But they had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Jeff Reed when the drive stalled at New England's 6-yard line.

After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Patriots responded with a nine-play, 52-yard drive, capped off with a 4-yard strike from Brady to Moss at the back of the end zone.

On the first play of New England's next possession, Moss ran a go-route straight up field from the slot and was uncovered. Brady, seeing the blown coverage, found his favorite receiver for a 63-yard touchdown connection.

With the Patriots leading, 14-3, and their fans sensing another blowout, Roethlisberger found Najeh Davenport open in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 14-10.

Reed's second field goal of the game, a 44-yarder, narrowed the gap to 14-13 before Stephen Gostkowski connected from 42 yards with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 17-13 lead at halftime.

The Patriots took control of the game when Brady fired a 56-yard touchdown to Jabar Gaffney midway through the third. The play appeared destined for failure when Moss fumbled a lateral but he was able to get the ball back to Brady, who found Gaffney wide open down the left sideline for a 24-13 lead.

"Yeah, that really sold it, didn't it? No, he wasn't supposed to drop it on purpose, but he (Moss) did a good job with it," Belichick said. "I think that sold the play a little bit and everybody kind of was hustling over there and he made a nice throw back to Tom, and you can't get him much more open than that."

"That's the first time that's worked in weeks," Brady added. "I told Randy that I guess he expected me to throw it on the ground. That was not the intention, but he made a great play to pick it up and get it back to me. I just barely got enough on it and it was a big turnaround in the game for us."

Brady's fourth touchdown pass of the day and 45th of the season was a 4-yard pass to Wes Welker late in the third that put New England ahead, 31-13.

The victory was the 100th for Belichick with the Patriots and gave him a record of 100-39-0 in New England - including the postseason.

"Big plays by their offensive people, who are good and we knew that they were good," Tomlin said. "But that still doesn't mean they should go up and down the field like that on us. We've got some work to do, and that is what we just talked about in there (locker room).

"We have a ways to go. If that is a measuring stick, we're not close."