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Classic Rewind: Patriots Nip Steelers in Early Season Thriller

Posted on November 10, 2010 by A.J. Foss

In week 3 of the 2005 NFL season, the New England Patriots traveled to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rematch of the AFC Championship Game from the season before.

Eight months earlier, the Patriots traveled to Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers 41-27 and advance to Super Bowl XXXIX where they would win their third Super Bowl in four years.

Led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots had a dynasty and the top dog in the NFL.

Entering the 2005 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were seen to be one of the favorites to knock k off the Patriots.

The Steelers were led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who in his rookie year won his first 14 starts as he led the Steelers to a 15-1 regular season record before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

One of the Steelers’ wins in the 2004 season was a 34-20 beat down of the Patriots on Halloween in Pittsburgh, which ended the Patriots’ 21-game winning streak.

For the third time in less than a year, the Patriots and the Steelers met in Heinz Field.

After forcing a three-and-out on the Steelers’ opening possession, the Patriots only had to drive 46 yards to get into the end zone, a 4-yard touchdown run by Corey Dillon, to put New England ahead 7-0.

Hines Ward scored on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Ben Rothelisberger.

On the very next offensive play, the Steelers tied it up when Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward on a slant pattern, and proceeded to run in for an 85-yard touchdown, the longest pass play in Heinz Field history, to tie the game at 7-7, just 15 seconds after the Patriots’ touchdown.

The Steelers took the lead when Jeff Reed made a 33-yard field goal to put Pittsburgh up 10-7 with 4:42 left in the opening quarter.

On that drive, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was injured and lost for the remainder of the season after tearing three ligaments in his left knee.

The Patriots went on a long possession following the Reed field goal as they drove from their own 17 to the Steelers’ 14, in a drive that went into the second quarter.

But on the fourteenth play of the drive, Kevin Faulk fumbled the ball when Steelers linebacker Clark Haggins stripped him of the ball after Faulk had caught a screen pass from Brady.

Linebacker Larry Foote recovered it at the eight-yard-line and returned it 27 yards to the Steelers’ 35-yard-line.

However, the Patriots got a reprieve when Antawn Randle El caught a Roethlisberger pass for a huge gain only to throw an errant lateral to Ward at the Patriots’ 15, which was recovered by Patriots cornerback Eugene Wilson at his own 11-yard-line, stopping another Steeler threat.

Things calmed down until 2:37 left in the second quarter when Reed missed a 52-yard field goal, after a false start penalty negated a successful attempt from 47 yards out.

The Patriots took over at their own 42-yard line and proceeded to drive to the Steelers’ three-yard-line thanks to Brady completed five of six passes on the drive.

But for the second time in the first half, the Patriots turned the ball over inside the Steelers’ 10-yard-line, this time when defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen deflected a Brady pass that was intercepted by Chris Hope, preserving the Steelers’ 10-7 lead as the two teams went into halftime.

The Patriots got the ball to start the second half and drove it to the Steelers’ 35-yard-line only to have Adam Vinatieri miss from 53 yards out.

Then on the Patriots’ next offensive drive, Faulk lost his second fumble of the game, which was recovered by Travis Kirschke, giving the Steelers possession at the Patriots’ 28-yard-line.

Tom Brady throttled the Pittsburgh defense for 372 yards passing.

The Steelers were able to cash in on points off this turnover as Reed made a 24-yard field goal to increase Pittsburgh’s lead to 13-7 with 6:08 to play in the third quarter.

Before the end of the quarter, Patriots kick returner Tim Dwight gave his team a great scoring opportunity when he returned Steelers punt 28 yards to the Pittsburgh 30-yard-line.

Though they gained zero yards in three plays, the Patriots were able to get some points as Vinatieri drilled a 48-yard-field goal to close the gap to 13-10 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.

With 14:51 to play in the fourth quarter, Steelers wide receiver Cedric Wilson ran a reverse for no gain.

The clock would down to 13:59 until whistles blew after Steelers guard Kendell Simmons was called for a false start.

That is where the clock operator at Heinz Field made a mistake and reverted the clock back to the time of the play before the penalty, which was 14:51.

Inadvertently, the clock operator had added an extra 52 seconds to the game that would be beneficial for the Patriots at the end of the game.

The Steelers punted the ball back to New England who took over at their own 14-yard-line with 14:19 to play.

Brady completed all five of his passes for 76 yards on a touchdown drive that culminated with a seven-yard run by Dillon for his second touchdown of the day and a 17-13 Patriots lead with 10:37 to go.

The Patriots then forced a three-and-out on the Steelers’ ensuing possession and got the ball back at their own 24-yard-line with 7:27 remaining.

It appeared that Brady was able to put the Steelers away as he completed three passes in a row for 51 yards, but the Steelers’ defense held and forced a field-goal attempt from Vinatieri, which he made from 35 yards out to increase New England’s lead to 20-13 with 3:19 remaining in regulation, plenty of time for Pittsburgh to tie the game.

Ricardo Colcough returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards, giving the Steelers great field position at their own 49-yard-line.

The Steelers drove to the Patriots’ 27-yard-line where they faced a 4th-and-11 with 1:31 to go.

Roethlisberger took the snap and lofted a pass toward the left corner short of the goal line, intended for Quincy Morgan.

The pass fell incomplete but Patriots defensive back Chad Scott was called for pass interference, giving the Steelers new life and the ball at the four-yard-line.

On the very next play, Roethlisberger hit Ward in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown that with the extra point tied the game at 20-20 with 1:21 left in regulation.

The Patriots had a chance to win the game in regulation which was enhanced when Ellis Hobbs returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the New England 38-yard-line.

On the first play, Brady hit Faulk for a 17-yard gain, then found Patrick Pass for a 14-yard gain, putting the Patriots at the Steelers’ 31-yard-line.

After a run by Dillon for no gain, Brady hit Givens for six yards, and the Patriots then called in on their clutch kicker, Vinatieri, to come in and make in another game-winning field goal.

New England ran the remaining seconds on the clock until there was five seconds left when they snapped the ball for the field goal attempt.

Once again, Vinatieri made another a last-second field goal, as his 43-yard attempt sailed through the uprights with one second left to give the Patriots a 23-20 lead.

New England did off the kick the ball back to the Steelers, but Pittsburgh could not come up with a miracle and the game ended with a 23-20 Patriots victory, handing the Steelers their first regular season loss in over a year.

The next day, the NFL admitted that there was an error in the management of the clock and that officials should have seen the malfunction.

The clock error did not have any lasting lingering effects in the Patriots and the Steelers’ seasons.

The Patriots finished the season 10-6 and champions of the AFC Eastern Division to make the playoffs where they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in their AFC Wild Card Game, but be knocked out by the Denver Broncos in the Divisional round, the first playoff loss in Tom Brady’s career.

The Steelers had to win their last four games of the regular season just to make the playoffs as the last wild card team in the AFC.

However, the Steelers would knock off the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos in succession to advance to Super Bowl XL where they defeated the Seattle Seahawks for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 26 years.

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