FOXBORO, Mass. – Using their stifling defense and a flurry of second-half turnovers, the Pittsburgh Steelers held red-hot Matt Cassel to 169 yards passing to whip the Patriots, 33-10, here at Gillette Stadium.
Cassel had entered the game having thrown for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games. But the Steelers sacked him five times, forced him to fumble twice and picked him off two more times as they improved to 9-3.
It was Pittsburgh's first victory over New England (7-5) since 2004 and first at New England since 1997.
Playing in a driving, cold rain, both teams suffered through some dropped passes. But Pittsburgh's rushing attack ground out 161 yards – 87 from Willie Parker and 67 from Mewelde Moore – to make the difference.
"That was Steelers football," said Parker, who alternated possessions with Moore. "We were able to wear them down in the second half and the offensive line did a great job opening up holes."
The teams played to a 10-10 tie in the first half, but the Steelers, who have allowed just nine third-points this season, took control after that.
After forcing the Patriots to punt on their first possession of the second half, the Steelers went to their no-huddle offense and marched methodically down the field before settling for a 25-yard Jeff Reed field goal to take a 13-10 lead.
Rookie Matthew Slater muffed the ensuing kickoff and Pittsburgh's Keyaron Fox recovered it at the New England 8. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger fired a touchdown pass to Ward to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead.
On New England's next offensive play, Steelers linebacker James Harrison beat Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light around the end and sacked Cassel, stripping him of the ball. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered the loose ball and the Steelers added another Reed field goal for a 23-10 lead.
Harrison got to Cassel again on New England's next offensive series, beating Light for the sack and strip – his 14th sack of the season. James Farrior recovered the loose ball, but Reed pushed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Troy Polamalu got into the act on New England's next series, intercepting Cassel off of a deflection at the Pittsburgh 11. He returned the ball out to midfield and the Steelers turned that into a 45-yard Reed field goal for a 26-10 lead with 5:48 left in the game.
The Steelers then finished the Patriots off with an interception by linebacker Lawrence Timmons at the Pittsburgh 10. Timmons rambled down the sideline 89 yards before being tackled by Ben Watson at the New England 1. Gary Russell punched the ball into the end zone for the 33-10 lead.
The Patriots increased their lead to 10-3 with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, but Roethlisberger tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes just after the two-minute warning to tie the score at 10-10.
Harrison's two sacks and one by Woodley increase their combined total to 25.5, making them the most productive sack duo in team history. Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd combined for 24 in 1994 and were matched by Joey Porter and Jason Gildon in 2000.
Roethlisberger completed 17-of-33 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked once.
The Patriots were 1-for-13 on third downs, missing on their first 12.