Steelers Top-Ranked Defense Stifles Patriots 33-10

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Pittsburgh's NFL-best defense stopped Matt Cassel's two-game offensive surge and pushed New England closer to strange territory: a sideline seat for the playoffs.

The Steelers held the Patriots to 267 yards, got two touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger and four field goals from Jeff Reed and beat the Patriots 33-10 on a cold, rainy Sunday.

Cassel lost two fumbles and two interceptions in the second half and was sacked five times after throwing for at least 400 yards in his past two contests. He was 19-for-39 for 169 yards and no touchdowns against Pittsburgh, which has held all 12 opponents under 300 yards.

In the second half, the Steelers outscored the Patriots 23-0 and gave up just 81 yards.

Pittsburgh (9-3) stayed a game ahead of second-place Baltimore in the AFC North. New England (7-5) dropped into a second-place tie in the AFC East with Miami and fell a game behind the Ravens and Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card race.

It's a precarious position for New England, which beat Pittsburgh in two AFC championship games en route to two of its three Super Bowl titles this decade.

The Patriots put themselves in that spot as Randy Moss dropped two passes while wide open, one of which would have gone for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. Two plays later, Stephen Gostkowski missed a 27-yard field goal .

In the third quarter, Matthew Slater fumbled away a kickoff, setting up Roethlisberger's 11-yard scoring pass to Hines Ward.

James Harrison forced fumbles by Cassel on his two sacks, which gave him 14 for the season. One led to Reed's 20-yard field goal that made it 23-10. Reed missed his kick after the other one.

Troy Polamalu's interception with 9:18 left led to Reed's 40-yard field goal. Then Lawrence Timmons returned another interception 89 yards, setting up Gary Russell's 1-yard touchdown run.

With more than five minutes left, most of the drenched fans had headed to the warmth of their cars. Some who remained waved yellow-and-black Terrible Towels.

New England scored first on Sammy Morris' 2-yard run after Mike Vrabel intercepted Roethlisberger's pass on Pittsburgh's second offensive play. Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead before Roethlisberger's 19-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes with 1:55 left in the half.

The Steelers stopped an offense that had gained 511 and 530 yards in its previous two games. They held the Patriots to just one conversion on 13 third-down plays and 81 yards in the second half.

Roethlisberger went 17-for-33 for 179 yards and one interception as the Steelers converted on 8-of-16 third downs and put up their third-highest scoring game of the season despite coming in ranked only 26th in yards gained.

This program aired on December 1, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.