PHOTO: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hauled down from behind by New England Patriots' Richard Seymour after gaining 11 yards to the New England six-yard line setting up a game tying Hines Ward touchdown late in the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005 in Pittsurgh. The Patriots came back to win in regulation 23-20. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PATRIOTS RECAP: Harrison and Light Big
By Scout.com Staff
Make it 36 weeks without consecutive losses, although keep losses in relative terms. The Patriots avoided their first two-game losing streak since December 2002 when they won in Pittsburgh on Sunday, but they will now prepare to host the Chargers without their defensive leader, safety Rodney Harrison, and their starting left tackle, Matt Light.
Both players were carted off the field in Pittsburgh with what looked to be serious knee injuries. Harrison was replaced by second-year safety Guss Scott, who is like a rookie since he missed his entire first season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Rookie Nick Kaczur, who saw spot duty in the first two games, replaced Light at left tackle.
Those are big losses at key spots. Harrison's injury is particularly damaging given that he is the emotional leader of a defense that is already without linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
"Rodney is an experienced player and a great leader," head coach Bill Belichick said. "But if he's out, someone else has to step in and play."
Belichick keeps it simple and certainly doesn't want to send the message to his team that Harrison's loss will negatively impact the Patriots' season. And if any team can overcome injuries to key players, it is New England.
In 2003, the Patriots were riddled with injuries early in the season, yet finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl despite using 42 starters. Last year, New England used 40 starters while repeating their 14-2 mark and winning a second straight Super Bowl.
Harrison's leadership was credited with helping the Patriots overcome injuries in the secondary last year when starting corners Ty Law and Tyrone Poole were lost for the season in October. He held together a patchwork secondary that now likely will have to stay together this year without his services, although no prognosis was given after Sunday's game.
The timing also was bad for the veteran safety in that he would have suited up to face his former team, San Diego, this week for the first time since the Chargers released him after the 2002 season. Harrison harbors ill will for the way he was unceremoniously cut by San Diego, which thought his career was on its downside. He has been an All-Pro performer for the Patriots the last two years.
Light was off to a slow start this season, but he has started since his rookie year, 2001, when the Patriots picked him in the second round. Kaczur, a 2005 third-round pick out of Toledo, was believed to be more of a project, but after a decent preseason, he was working in a rotation with Light and right tackle Tom Ashworth. Brandon Gorin also has some left tackle experience, but he has been out injured since the preseason.
The Patriots will host San Diego at Gillette Stadium, where they have won 21 straight games, before playing two more on the road, at Atlanta and at Denver, before getting a needed bye week breather.
Adam Vinatieri booted a 43-yard field goal with one second left to give the Patriots a dramatic 23-20 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field.
The kick came after quarterback Tom Brady guided the Patriots 37 yards in five plays and 1:20 without the benefit of a timeout and helped the Patriots overcome three turnovers, including two inside the Steelers 10-yard line.
Brady, who threw one interception and did not have a touchdown, had an otherwise terrific day, completing 31 of 41 passes for 372 yards. He was sacked three times, but was 12-for-12 for 167 yards in the fourth quarter. The Patriots defense limited Steelers running back Willie Parker to 55 yards and limited Ben Roethlisberger to 12-of-28 passing for 216 yards with two TDs and no picks.
--CB Chad Scott returned to the lineup after missing the team's Week 2 loss in Carolina with a shoulder injury. Scott did not start against Pittsburgh but replaced Duane Starks when he left with an arm injury.
--CB Duane Starks injured his arm on the first play of the game Sunday but did return to action, sparing the Patriots secondary from another major injury.
--CB Tyrone Poole missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
--CB Randall Gay missed the Pittsburgh game with an ankle injury.
--WR Bethel Johnson returned to action against Pittsburgh, and while he had just one catch for 3 yards, he did return three kickoffs for 69 yards. Johnson had a 46-yard return called back due to a holding penalty on teammate Tully Banta-Cain. Johnson appeared to have his patented speed back on his returns.
--RB Kevin Faulk was a big part of the Patriots offense in Pittsburgh with seven catches for 71 yards and seven carries for 13 yards, but he also lost a pair of fumbles, including one at the Steelers 8-yard line.
-- OL Matt Light left the game after suffering a lower leg injury when another player rolled over his ankle. Light did not return to the game, and was replaced by rookie Nick Kaczur.
-- S Rodney Harrison left the game in the first quarter after sustaining a knee injury. Harrison was engaged with another player when Steelers receiver Cedrick Wilson was knocked into Harrison from the left side. Harrison's knee buckled and he fell to the ground in agony. He was carted off the field and was seen after the game on crutches with a knee brace. His status remains unknown pending further evaluation.
-- LB Wesly Mallard was inactive for the game, watching from the sidelines.
-- LB Tully Banta-Cain returned to action on special teams. Banta-Cain committed a holding penalty on one of Bethel Johnson's kick-off returns. He ended the day with no tackles.
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