Four days after the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, the Patriots lost their first game in 399 days, a 34--20 drubbing by the Steelers. Pittsburgh won this one the way the Pats had won so many during their NFL-record, 21-game winning streak. The Steelers were smart, attacking injury replacements Randall Gay at cornerback with wideout Plaxico Burress (above) and Brandon Gorin at left tackle with linebacker Joey Porter. They were opportunistic, finishing with a plus-four turnover ratio and scoring 24 points off takeaways. And they put together a smashing ground attack, outrushing New England 221 yards to five. It'll be tough for New England to start a new streak with games at St. Louis and red-hot Kansas City in the next three weeks.
BY THE NUMBERS
Passers are on a record pace for completion percentage and quarterback rating, in large part because receivers are having an easier time getting off the line of scrimmage. Officials have been more stringent about enforcing the rule prohibiting defensive players from making contact with receivers more than five yards downfield. Here's how the stats through Sunday compare with league completion rates and passer ratings over the last five seasons.
Through Eight Weeks Comp.%
Full Season Comp.%
* NFL record
Daunte Culpepper versus Peyton Manning (right). The best two quarterbacks in the first half of the season meet Monday night in Indianapolis. The combined stats of the Vikings' Culpepper and the Colts' Manning: .679 completion percentage, 4,341 passing yards, 42 touchdowns, nine interceptions.
1. What's with Chargers fans? Their team was 4--3 and the Raiders were coming to town, yet last week San Diego--area businesses had to buy 2,800 tickets to avoid the first blackout of a Raiders-Chargers game since 1977.
2. If I were a fan of the perennially woeful Cardinals, I'd love coach Denny Green's ruthlessness. Unhappy with Arizona's offensive line, he reassigned assistant Bob Wylie after six games.
3. It's absurd that Michael Vick has been sacked more times (25) than Drew Bledsoe (24) or Vinny Testaverde (13).
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback, every week at si.com/football.
TOM E. PUSKAR/AP (BURRESS)
JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (MANNING)