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Steelers beaming after romp over Chiefs

Steelers 45, Chiefs 7
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger couldn't have played any worse for a month. The NFL now must be wondering how much better the Super Bowl champions can be after a convincing all-is-well performance.

The Steelers revived everything they displayed in winning the championship last season as Roethlisberger threw his first two touchdown passes since the AFC Championship game in a 45-7 rout of the Chiefs yesterday.

Despite not starting three injured regulars -- one of whom, guard Kendall Simmons, fell asleep with an ice pack on his leg and sustained frostbite -- Pittsburgh never resembled the team that could barely gain a first down in a 9-0 loss to Jacksonville Sept. 18, or ran only 18 plays in the second half of last week's 23-13 loss at San Diego.

Maybe it was watching AFC North leaders Baltimore (4-2) and Cincinnati (3-2) lose earlier in the afternoon, tightening up the division race. But the Steelers (2-3) played with the confidence and composure they lacked while losing three in a row.

``We started fast -- we started real fast," said coach Bill Cowher, who admittedly didn't see this coming during a week in which his team had some ``soul searching to do."

``They had to start showing they were that Super Bowl team again," Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali said. ``That's how they played."

Roethlisberger was among the NFL's lowest-rated quarterbacks with no touchdown passes and seven interceptions, while Kansas City's Damon Huard was highly rated with five touchdowns and no interceptions. All that changed in a few hours in which Roethlisberger could again do little wrong and Huard, a longtime backup, could do little right while completing only 16 of 32 passes for 162 yards and an interception.

``I tried throwing to the guys in the black shirts rather than the guys in the white shirts," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger had no touchdown passes and nine interceptions in his last four starts, counting the Super Bowl. Questions were raised if he was fully healed from his June motorcycle crash and his appendectomy last month.

But he was as sharp and polished as he was in the playoffs, going 16 of 19 for 238 yards and TDs of 47 yards to Nate Washington and 13 yards to Hines Ward. He constantly exploited the Chiefs' man coverage as the Steelers outgained the Chiefs, 372-47, while opening a 31-0 lead at halftime. They ended with a 457-213 edge in yardage.

Roethlisberger got the Steelers going on the third play of the game, hitting rookie Santonio Holmes for 50 yards after defender Ty Law slipped. Holmes would have scored if he hadn't fallen, but Willie Parker scored several plays later from the 3.

Roethlisberger found a wide-open Washington for a touchdown on Pittsburgh's next possession, and the Chiefs (2-3) couldn't come back from this 14-0 deficit like they did last week in rallying to beat Arizona, 23-20. Not with Parker running for 109 yards while repeatedly finding the big holes and running lanes that last year's AFC rushing leader, Larry Johnson, couldn't locate.

Johnson followed a 36-yard effort against Arizona with 26 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Johnson stood out only once, in the unaccustomed role of tackler.

He ran down Troy Polamalu on a 49-yard interception return in the third quarter by grabbing the All-Pro safety by his long hair. Johnson whipped Polamalu to the ground out of bounds along the Chiefs' sideline, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and touching off a brief skirmish.


Respect, record on the rise
NEW ORLEANS -- After a quiet five games, Joe Horn suddenly looked like the star player he was in 2004, with his shoulder-shaking end zone dances and game-changing catches.

He wasn't the only one dancing.

A packed crowd in the Louisiana Superdome watched the revamped Saints pull out a legitimizing victory over one of most feared teams in the NFL. Kept out of the end zone until yesterday, Horn caught touchdown passes of 14 and 49 yards, then John Carney hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans a 27-24 win over Philadelphia.

New Orleans (5-1) enters its bye week atop the NFC South. If anyone still doubts the surprising start of a team that went 3-13 last season, the Eagles (4-2) can't be counted among the critics. Nor could many in the raucous, sold-out Superdome, which rained down earsplitting cheers in support of New Orleans's defense and erupted in celebration as Carney's winning kick left his foot.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees continued his impressive start in New Orleans after offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder. He completed 27 of 37 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and did not take a sack against a defense that has 23 this season.

Brees led a 72-yard, 16-play winning drive that chewed up the final 8:26. Deuce McAllister, who missed much of the first half after tweaking his hamstring, made a key first-down run before the game-ending field goal.

The Eagles' Donovan McNabb was 19 of 32 for 247 yards and two touchdowns, both in the third quarter -- a 60-yarder to Reggie Brown and a 4-yarder to L.J. Smith. Brown also scored on a 15-yard reverse to put the Eagles in front, 24-17, early in the fourth.


Baltimore is dealt a blow
BALTIMORE -- Jake Delhomme wasn't about to be upstaged by a backup quarterback who hadn't tossed a touchdown pass since Christmas.

Delhomme threw for a career-high 365 yards and two touchdowns, and Carolina slipped past Baltimore, 23-21, yesterday for its fourth straight win.

After Ravens quarterback Steve McNair left with a concussion and sprained neck in the first quarter, Kyle Boller took over. A starter for three years before being displaced by McNair, Boller threw three touchdown passes to provide Baltimore (4-2) with its biggest scoring output since Week 2.

But every time Boller and the Ravens did something right, Delhomme answered for the Panthers (4-2).

After Mark Clayton took a tipped pass for a 62-yard touchdown to bring the Ravens to 16-14 with 4:33 to go, Delhomme tossed a 72-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith on the next play from scrimmage. Smith caught eight passes for 189 yards.

A 7-yard pass from Boller to Todd Heap made it 23-21 with 2:13 left, but Delhomme, who was 24 of 39, made sure Baltimore never got the ball back.

John Kasay added three field goals for Carolina.

Boller entered after McNair was left woozy after being sacked by Mike Rucker and Chris Draft. Boller, who had been relegated to backup duty since the Ravens obtained McNair in an offseason trade with Tennessee, went 17 of 31 for 226 yards.

Two of his touchdown passes were deflections that Clayton turned into scores, the first of which gave Baltimore a 7-3 lead. Delhomme answered with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Drew Carter, and the Panthers never trailed again.

Patriots' next foe: Buffalo
Lions 20, Bills 17

Wait is over for Marinelli
DETROIT -- Roy Williams and Kevin Jones ended Rod Marinelli's long wait for a win.

Williams had 10 receptions for 161 yards -- both career highs -- and scored a touchdown while Jones ran for a season-high 127 yards and a score to lead Detroit to a 20-17 win over Buffalo yesterday.

Instead of the late mistakes that have cost the Lions in four of five opening losses, they made clutch plays on both sides of the ball to give Marinelli his first victory as an NFL head coach. Marinelli had to bide his time for more than three decades to be a head coach at any level, and the Lions made him wait just a little longer for his first victory.

When the former Tampa Bay defensive line coach saw the final seconds tick off the clock, he smiled and walked across the field to shake the hand of Buffalo coach Dick Jauron, who ended last season as the interim coach in Detroit.

The Lions led, 17-10, at halftime, wishing they had a bigger lead after outgaining Buffalo by nearly 200 yards. Detroit (1-5) was outscored, 7-3, by the Bills (2-4) in the fourth quarter after being outscored, 47-14, in the final quarter of their previous five games.

Jason Hanson's 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter put the Lions ahead by 10. Detroit had to cling to its slim lead after J.P. Losman's 4-yard TD pass to Ryan Neufeld made it 20-17 on the next drive.

Detroit's Jon Kitna was 24 of 36 for 278 yards with a TD and an interception. J.P. Losman was 21 of 34 for 204 yards with two TDs and an interception for Buffalo.

The Bills, losers of two in a row, next face the AFC East-leading Patriots, who rallied to beat Buffalo, 19-17, in the season opener. The Bills allowed the Lions to run for 132 yards yesterday, a week after giving up 155 yards on the ground to Chicago. The Patriots had 183 yards rushing in the first meeting.


Miami rally comes up short
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets thought they blew it. The offense built a big lead with a second-half scoring burst, then the defense let Miami back in the game. But Olindo Mare came up short on a 51-yard field goal attempt and the Jets barely held on for a 20-17 win yesterday.

Laveranues Coles caught two touchdown passes and Mike Nugent kicked a pair of 33-yard field goals in a game that could be added to the lengthy list of classic meetings between the AFC East rivals. The Jets (3-3) did just enough after halftime to earn an important division win.

After taking a 20-3 lead, the Jets had to sweat this one out as Joey Harrington led the Dolphins (1-5) on two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter, getting within a field goal on Ronnie Brown's 1-yard touchdown run.

Working out of the no-huddle offense and catching the Jets out of position time after time, Harrington marched the Dolphins down field again with a plethora of short passes in a last-minute effort to pull even. But Mare, who was 1 for 3 this season on kicks of 50-plus yards, came up short, the ball landing in the end zone.

Harrington, making his second straight start in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper, finished 27 of 43 for 266 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions, while Brown had 127 yards on 22 carries.


Denver defense stingy again
DENVER -- Jason Elam kicked two field goals, Tatum Bell ran for a short touchdown, and Denver's defense put on another suffocating performance as the Broncos defeated winless Oakland, 13-3, last night.

The offensively challenged Broncos (4-1) haven't allowed a touchdown in three home games and they're the only NFL team since the 1934 Lions to start a season by yielding just one TD through five games.

The Raiders committed 13 penalties, including four false starts on backup right tackle Chad Slaughter, and fell to 0-5 for the first time since 1964. They are the only winless team in the NFL.

As is their style, the Broncos bent but didn't break. Champ Bailey picked off a pass at the Denver 1 in the first half and defensive tackle Michael Myers ended another promising drive by the Raiders when he scooped up LaMont Jordan's fumble at the Denver 19 with 4:24 remaining.

Bell's 2-yard touchdown run followed a 54-yard pass from Jake Plummer to Javon Walker late in the first quarter. That throw accounted for more than half of Plummer's passing total. He finished 11 of 18 for 102 yards. Bell carried 23 times for 83 yards.


Barber can't be caught
ATLANTA -- Tiki Barber outplayed the NFL's best ground team by gaining 185 of New York's 259 rushing yards, Jeremy Shockey caught a couple of touchdown passes, and the Giants rallied past the Falcons in the second half for a 27-14 victory yesterday.

The Giants (3-2) fell behind, 14-3, when Warrick Dunn broke off a 90-yard touchdown on Atlanta's first offensive play of the second half -- the longest run in team history. But New York dominated the Falcons (3-2) the rest of the way, going ahead with touchdown drives of 84 and 91 yards.

Barber did much of the damage, breaking off nine runs of at least 12 yards against a defense that was allowing just 69.3 rushing yards per game, second best in the league. New York scored the final 24 points of the game, shredding an injury-plagued defense that had given up only one touchdown all season.

The Giants' defense pounded Michael Vick, who was slow to get up from several huge licks, threw an interception, and fumbled four times (though he lost only one). The quarterback did break off a spectacular 22-yard touchdown run, but completed only 14 of 27 passes for 154 yards and was sacked seven times.


Poise produces first win
LANDOVER, Md. -- Rookie quarterback Vince Young rallied Tennessee from an 11-point first-half deficit yesterday, leading the previously winless Titans to a 25-22 upset of Washington.

Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for Tennessee (1-5), including a 30-yarder with 5:11 to play that decided the game. Travis Henry ran for a career-high 178 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries, and Casey Cramer blocked a punt in the second half to give his team a safety, providing a vital cushion in a tight game.

But it was the cool of Young, the No. 3 overall pick making his third start, that sparked an attack that generated 344 yards. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, easily his best day as a pro. Young connected with seven receivers, and no throw was more clutch than his 23-yard pass to Brandon Jones on fourth and 2, keeping alive a drive that led to a touchdown that gave the Titans a 20-14 lead.

Down by eight, the Redskins (2-4) rallied early in the fourth on Clinton Portis's 4-yard touchdown run, with Mark Brunell hitting Santana Moss for the 2-point conversion to tie the score with 10:57 remaining. The Redskins had the ball twice more but Brunell was intercepted by Lamont Thompson with about a minute to play.


TD worth a second look
TAMPA -- Michael Clayton's dive into the end zone with 35 seconds remaining -- on an 8-yard reception that was initially ruled incomplete -- gave Tampa Bay its first win of the season, 14-13 over Cincinnati yesterday.

The winning play was reviewed and the call was reversed after replays showed the ball firmly in Clayton's hands as he flew through the air, sending the Bucs (1-4) into celebration. The Bengals (3-2) thought they had won when Clayton put the nose of the ball over the goal line on the fourth-down play, then lost control when he landed on the ground.

The TD capped a roller-coaster performance for rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, making his second start for Tampa Bay in place of the injured Chris Simms. The sixth-round pick also threw a 2-yard TD pass to Alex Smith, but otherwise showed his inexperience by going 25 of 44 for 184 yards and one interception.

Carson Palmer threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Shayne Graham kicked two field goals for Cincinnati. The Bengals marched into Bucs territory in the closing seconds, but Graham's 62-yard field goal attempt as time expired was short and off the mark.


Owens ends up happy
IRVING, Texas -- Terrell Owens caught two third-quarter touchdown passes and another in the fourth, turning a tight game against Houston into an easy 34-6 win yesterday and helping Dallas avenge an embarrassing loss to its in-state rival four years ago.

Owens's touchdowns covered 3, 21, and 2 yards. His first gave Dallas (3-2) its first lead at 10-6, on the team's first drive of the second half. Three plays after an interception by Greg Ellis gave Dallas the ball at Houston's 23, Drew Bledsoe lobbed a pass to Owens in the end zone. Owens's last score came on Tony Romo's first career TD pass.

Owens finished with five catches for 45 yards. Bledsoe bounced back from his awful game against Philadelphia to go 17 of 28 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, with no turnovers. Julius Jones ran 22 times for 106 yards, his third straight 100-yard game.

Houston (1-4) led, 6-3, at halftime, reviving visions of a stunning 19-10 victory over Dallas in the first game in Texans history back in 2002. But turnovers on three straight drives -- including two interceptions of David Carr passes -- kept the Texans from scoring again, and their defense allowed the Cowboys to score on five of their six second-half possessions.


Ruling swings fortunes
ST. LOUIS -- Josh Brown's 54-yard field goal as time expired yesterday gave Seattle a 30-28 victory over St. Louis, spoiling the Rams' chance for a third fumble-induced win of the season.

Matt Hasselbeck threw three touchdown passes, two to Deion Branch, as Seattle (4-1) regained first place from its NFC West rival. The winning kick came after a 5-yard penalty that briefly had the Rams (4-2) thinking they'd pulled off another improbable win. Instead, they enter the bye week wondering what happened.

What happened was an illegal formation penalty against Seattle as it spiked the ball to give Brown a chance for the field goal. The Rams began to celebrate, believing a 10-second clock runoff would give them the win. But officials ruled that because the ball had been spotted and snapped properly, there was no runoff.

St. Louis dominated the first half and led, 21-7, midway through the third quarter. The Seahawks scored the next 20 points before Marc Bulger connected with Torry Holt for a 67-yard score to put the Rams on top, 28-27, with 1:44 to play.


Tomlinson bolts to the top
SAN FRANCISCO -- LaDainian Tomlinson set a franchise scoring record with a career-best four touchdowns rushing, and Philip Rivers passed for a career-high 334 yards and two more scores in San Diego's 48-19 rout of San Francisco yesterday.

Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson caught scoring passes from Rivers, who was practically perfect as the Chargers rolled to their first 4-1 start since 2002. Rivers went 29 of 39 with a poise beyond his five career starts, easily picking apart an injury-riddled secondary on a defense that has allowed 194 points this season.

Tomlinson ran for just 71 yards, but surpassed Lance Alworth's Chargers record with his 84th career TD in the first quarter.

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