Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is brought down by the Patriots' Ty Warren yesterday. (at Patriots 12/10/2007)
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Ike Taylor calls his celebratory waving hand gesture in front of his face, his "Faceoff" and that's what Mike Tomlin assigned him to do yesterday: Face off against what may be the game's best receiver, Randy Moss.
Although Tomlin has said he does not like to have one cornerback shadow the same receiver all day, that's precisely what he had Taylor do.
Perhaps the Steelers should have had three defenders shadow Moss because it looks as though no one can cover him alone or even with safety help. Moss caught seven passes for 135 yards and two more touchdowns on his march toward Jerry Rice's single-season NFL record.
Moss has 19 now, second most in NFL history only to Rice, who caught 22 in the strike season of 1987.
"They have got Tom Brady out there and he does not make mistakes," Taylor said. "When you have a guy like that and receivers like that, you just about have to play perfect."
Brady's four touchdown passes boosted his total this season to 45. With three games to go, only Peyton Manning (49 in 2004) and Dan Marino (48 in 1984) are ahead of him.
Brady's 399 yards were his most in a game played in regulation and second only to his 410 in an overtime win against Kansas City in 2002.
Tomlin said the Steelers put Taylor, who is 6 feet 1, on Moss, who is 6-4, because he "is our biggest guy, he is our fastest guy."
It wasn't just Taylor that Moss beat; on his 63-yard touchdown pass, Moss ran past safety Anthony Smith, who came up on the run-fake by Brady.
"It didn't mean that we were going to match [Taylor] up in man-to-man situations all day," Tomlin said. "That wasn't the case. We called our normal defenses. We just had what we thought was a physical matchup that leveled the playing field."
Normally, when Willie Parker tops 100 yards rushing, the Steelers win. Yesterday, he ran for 124 on 21 carries and they did not come close.
It was his first 100-yard game in the past four and his most since he ran 22 times for 126 yards Oct. 28 at Cincinnati. It was the only time in seven 100-yard games this season for Parker that the Steelers lost.
"I still don't think -- if we don't beat ourselves -- a team in this league can beat us, and that's what happened today, we beat ourselves," Parker said.
The Steelers allowed only 22 yards rushing by the Patriots, who showed little interest by running only nine times.
That's usually the Steelers' formula for success -- run, stop the run. They also held the ball longer than the home team, 34 minutes, 43 seconds to 25:17.
"It was a little weird," linebacker James Farrior said. "I thought they'd try to run a little bit when they got a good lead on us, but they kept trying to throw the ball.
"We try to make a team one-dimensional and they did it for us and we still didn't stop them.''
Mom will get over it
Brady got into a little bit of jawing with Smith after his first touchdown pass put the Patriots ahead for good, 7-3.
"There's always just a little jawing," Brady said. "I don't care to repeat what I said ... especially if my mother reads it. She wouldn't be very happy with what I said."
Smith said he does not know what was said.
"I couldn't hear him, I was talking so loud myself," Smith said.
What did he tell Brady?
"A whole bunch of cuss words," Smith replied.
Look! Up in the sky!
A couple hours before kickoff, a plane droned over Gillette Stadium with the kind of banner behind it you might see on the beach at the Jersey shore.
The banner read: "Bonds -- 762• , Belichick 3 Super Bowl Wins• "
Yesterday was Bill Belichick's 100th victory as the Patriots' coach.
Talk is cheap
Everyone on the Steelers' side, from Tomlin on down, downplayed the significance of Smith's victory guarantee on the game's lopsided outcome.
"At 4:15, what was said during the week was irrelevant," Tomlin said. "It's about what you do and how you play ... That is a good football team. I doubt that those comments were a motivating factor in terms of how they performed today. They were the better team. They beat us."
Although most of his teammates would have preferred that Smith had kept his mouth shut, Parker said he was motivated by Smith's comments.
"He fired me up," Parker said. "I went into the weight room every day [last week] because of that boy. I wanted to do everything I could to back him up. We just came up short."
• The victory clinched a first-round playoff bye for the Patriots, guaranteed one of the top two seeds in the AFC and a home game after the bye.
• With 503 points, the Patriots need 54 to break the NFL record of 556 in a season, set by Minnesota in 1998.
• Ben Roethlisberger's 26th touchdown pass puts him within two of Terry Bradshaw's record of 28 in a season.
Troy Polamalu, as expected, did not dress for the game and was replaced at strong safety for the third consecutive game by Tyrone Carter.
The other Steelers' inactives: QB Brian St. Pierre, WR Willie Reid, RB Gary Russell, LB LaMarr Woodley, C Marvin Philip, C Darnell Stapleton, OT Trai Essex.
The Patriots' inactives: QB Matt Gutierrez, CB Eddie Jackson, S Rashad Baker, G Stephen Neal, T Wesley Britt, WR Troy Brown, DL Le Kevin Smith, LB Chad Brown.