Steelers end Pats' streak

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> The offense will steal the highlight package, but the defense was primarily responsible for the Steelers' 34-20 win that ended the New England Patriots' record win streak at 21 games.<br><br> For once, pre-game theatrics had something to do with it.

"We had a little trash talking going on before the game and that always gets me fired up," said Joey Porter. "I take stuff like that personal."

Porter and New England linebacker Willie McGinest raged at each other before the game, which is certainly nothing new for Porter. The difference this time was Porter did something about it. He sacked quarterback Tom Brady three times and forced two fumbles. Both were recovered by the Steelers and led directly to touchdowns.

The spark to it all may was McGinest.

"He's talking this week 'Who's Jerome Bettis?' not knowing he's a future Hall of Famer," Porter said. "You know my style. I don't back down from no challenge. I don't care who it is. You get in my face I'm going to be right there looking for you all game. He just got me fired up and I had to take it out on somebody."

He took it out on Brady. Trailing 7-3, New England began its third possession by fumbling. Porter came up from behind Brady and knocked the ball loose an instant before his arm began to move forward. Kimo von Oelhoffen recovered at the New England 27 and the Steeelers scored to jump up 14-3.

Porter had another sack to start he second quarter. He then forced a fumble to start the third quarter. Running back Kevin Faulk caught a pass but Porter stripped the ball, which was recovered by Aaron Smith. He returned it to the New England 17 and the Steelers scored four plays later for a 31-10 lead.

Porter's third sack occurred midway through the third quarter to bring up a third down and 27 for the Patriots.

Porter had a couple of chances for a fourth sack. In the fourth quarter he barreled into Brady, who'd thrown a short, wobbly pass just before contact. Four plays later, Porter pressured Brady, who stepped up and was sacked by Smith. It was Smith's fifth sack of the season, a team high. Porter is close behind with four sacks.

For the game, Porter had a team-high eight tackles, three sacks, forced the two fumbles and defensed a pass.

It was the fourth career game in which Porter had at least three sacks. The last time was Sept. 15, 2002 against the Oakland Raiders when he had three sacks and two interceptions.

In his previous 33 games, Porter had recorded only nine sacks and forced three fumbles. The slump actually had begun before Porter suffered a gunshot wound prior to the start of the 2003 season. Since then that time, he'd recorded only six sacks before rebounding against the Patriots. Is this a sign Joey Porter's back?

"He ain't never left," Porter said. "But this is what the people normally see, that type of effort."

Porter said the key to his production was the big lead that forced New England to throw more often. The Patriots ran only six times for five yards.

"When they pass the ball with a quarterback like Brady, who's not going to run out the pocket, you can rush anyway you want to," he said. "Just go to the quarterback."

Was it the best game since he'd been shot?

"Yeah. No question, stats wise," he said. "Whether I had the injury or not, whenever I'm out there on the football field I'm always giving my best. Today I just had more opportunities than usual.

"Health-wise, there's been nothing wrong with me. There hasn't been anything wrong with me since the season started. I've been totally healthy. Last year was last year. I got my legs back towards the end of the year. But now, starting in training camp, I've had no problems with my leg. I was fine."

"Today was just a tribute to all the hard work he put in throughout the season," said his close friend and pass-rushing bookend Clark Haggans. "He excelled. He does what he does. He's Joey."

Is Joey really back?

"I don't think he ever left. From the standpoint of production, I think it was better than previous games, but Joey never went anywhere. He's playing well and it's fun to see him out there having fun playing football."

Porter's only disappointment was that Patriots running back Corey Dillon missed the game with an injury.

"I want the best players in there all the time," Porter said. "Now that we won, they'll say they didn't have Ty Law, didn't have Dillon, didn't have their offensive linemen. At the same time, you can't take the credit away from the effort we had today."

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