Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Steelers barely beat Jets

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE On paper, New York's quarterback had a far better day than Pittsburgh's new rookie sensation, but the Steelers prevailed in overtime


Jets running back Curtis Martin, left, fends off Steelers safety Chris Hope during overtime of their AFC divisional playoff game in Pittsburgh on Saturday.


The Steelers had the NFL's best record this season at 15-1, an unbeaten rookie quarterback, and rarely were challenged at home. But they got all they could handle Saturday before eliminating the New York Jets from the NFL playoffs, 20-17 in overtime.

New York's Doug Brien missed two late fourth-quarter field goals, including a 43-yarder at the end of regulation. Then Jeff Reed made a 33-yarder to move the Steelers into the American Football Conference championship game, which they will host next Sunday. Reed has made 19 straight field goals.

"I tried to hit it harder because the first one didn't get there," said Brien, whose 47-yarder hit the crossbar. "Just didn't hit it very well.

"I'll be fine. I just feel bad for the guys that played so well, played so hard and came up short."

Ben Roethlisberger, the Offensive Rookie of the Year who won all 13 regular-season starts, had a poor game, throwing two interceptions. Reggie Tongue returned the first one 86 yards for a third-quarter touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

But the Steelers tied it on a 4-yard shovel pass from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward, and once they got to overtime, Roethlisberger took them from their 13 to the winning kick.

The Jets (11-7), who upset San Diego 20-17 last week, became the first team to play three straight overtime games. They got Santana Moss' 75-yard punt return TD, but did not have an offensive touchdown.

"After what we went through today, I think it's our time," Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said. "The way these circumstances played out, it's our time."

In Saturday's late game, Atlanta routed St. Louis 47-17.

On Sunday, Indianapolis is at New England and Minnesota visits Philadelphia.

Falcons 47, Rams 17

The Falcons (12-5) got big plays from nearly everyone, including, naturally, star quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick threw two touchdown passes and ran for 119 yards. Warrick Dunn sprinted for a 62-yard touchdown and Allen Rossum set an NFL playoff record for punt returns, with a 68-yard runback for a score to punctuate his efforts. Rossum finished with 152 yards on three punt returns -- a staggering 50.7-yard average.

Falcons coach Jim Mora, whose father Jim is the only 100-win coach in NFL history without one postseason victory, got his first in his initial try.

"I felt we had a certain calm about us as we went through the week," Mora said. "We were very calm tonight, we weren't as hyped as you might imagine, being our first home playoff game in a long time.

"I said our confidence would be our power."

St. Louis (9-9) won its last two regular-season games just to make the playoffs, and when it beat NFC West champion Seattle last weekend, it became the first non-winning team to capture a playoff game. But the Rams had nothing left for the Falcons.

Colts (13-4) at Patriots (14-2)

Much has been made of the weather, of the Patriots not covering the Gillette Stadium field all week, of Peyton Manning and the Colts' high-powered offense being forced to deal with a quagmire.

"Whatever the field is, that's what it will be," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "It's not that big an issue. It's one of those things that everybody's going to talk about that's really not going to impact the game that much."

Perhaps more critical is how an undermanned New England defense will handle Manning, the league's MVP who threw for a record 49 touchdowns and set a mark with a 121.1 passer rating. The Patriots are without both starting cornerbacks, and All-Pro DT Richard Seymour is questionable with a knee injury.

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