Curran: Steelers loss was a win for New England


Curran: Steelers loss was a win for New England

By Tom E. Curran

DALLAS I think we can agree that, when appraising any situation, the only question that demands answering is: What does this mean to meeeeee?

And there were things that occurred in Dallas Sunday night that had relevance to people residing in the Northeast corner of these United States.

Christina Aguilera leaving out her ramparts during the National Anthem? Interesting. Not impactful.

The Pittsburgh Steelers bumbling away a chance at their third Super Bowl win since 2005? Impactful.

I know enough Steelers fans to be aware of their searing hatred for all things New England Patriots. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Danny Woodheads adorable three-legged basset hound? Hate. Hate. And hate.

Its born of their agitation with the Patriots usurping Pittsburgh as the dominant AFC team. From 1975 through 2000, no AFC franchise approached the legacy the Steelers built in the 1970s.

The Broncos kinda did, but even those two Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 1998 didnt erase their four Super Bowl losses (a few by beatdown). And the Bills were despite being the most consistently excellent team of the 1990s - really just lovable losers.

When the Patriots came along and won three Super Bowls in four years, going right through Pittsburgh (at Pittsburgh) in two conference championship games, Steelers and their fanbase lost their identity. Or at least the ability to indisputably claim the Steelers were the most important AFC franchise.

And when the Patriots got caught videotaping defensive signals after being asked (along with the rest of the league) to stop the practice, that relatively minor act (the major act was their defiance of the edict), Steelers fans had their hammer to discredit the Patriots legacy.

Had Pittsburgh won Sunday night, they would have basically matched what New England did from 2001 through 2004 winning three titles in a very short span.

But they didnt. Instead, they spit the bit in a very winnable game. Their very good quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, failed to cross the threshold into all-time greatness. Their amazing and admirable safety, Troy Polamalu, was a liability. The Steelers failed to beat a team that had lost important players on both offense (Donald Driver) and defense (Charles Woodson).

And now their hammer remains Spygate, instead of three rings for Roethlisberger and seven Lombardis for the franchise (including three from 2001-10 . . . same as the Pats).

They will use that hammer. This post-Super Bowl Monday, Ive been fielding irate e-mails from Steelers fans for saying Roethlisberger failed to achieve all-time greatness when the opportunity was laid out in front of him.

And failed in spectacularly inefficient fashion.

This assertion, apparently, is not made in a vacuum because the e-mails Ive gotten have usually included the words Spygate, Brady Cheating and expletive Belichick.

The reason?

Its not just about their Steelers. Its about their Steelers place in history. Same thing as the Patriots and their fans concerns.

And on this particular Monday, nothings changed for the Patriots. Given the alternative if Pittsburgh had won, that probably means a lot.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17


Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns


Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.


Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.