- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

Pittsburgh can make NFL history today against Philadelphia.

If the Steelers (6-1) beat the visiting Eagles (7-0), they’ll be the first team to defeat unbeaten foes in consecutive games this deep into a season. Pittsburgh is the first team to face such a challenge since Dayton and Canton took on undefeated Akron and Buffalo in the league’s debut season of 1920.

Last week the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger became the first rookie quarterback to beat Bill Belichick’s Patriots and snapped New England’s NFL-record 21-game winning streak. Today he can tie former Steeler Mike Kruczek’s NFL-record 6-0 start by a rookie passer.

“Roethlisberger hasn’t played like a rookie,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. “He’s a big, strong, athletic guy who looks like he’s been in this league for five years. Hopefully, we can get some pressure on him and make him get rid of the ball faster than he wants. But to do that, we’ve got to slow down their run game first.”

If running back Brian Westbrook, who replaced Duce Staley in Philadelphia, remains out with bad ribs, that puts more pressure on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has slipped from a 71.8 completion percentage in his first 14 quarters to 55.9 percent accuracy in his past 14. The Eagles, looking for a franchise-record 10th straight road victory, are 20-3 since their 0-2 start of last year and are the NFL’s last unbeaten team.

Patriots-Rams — Seventeen St. Louis players have waited nearly three years for this. It’s payback time for New England’s last-minute drive in Super Bowl XXXVI that prevented the Rams from winning two titles in three years and becoming a mini-dynasty.

Both teams are coming off defeats, but St. Louis (4-3) has had a bye week to recover from the shock of losing to previously winless Miami. New England (6-1) not only hasn’t had much time to recover from its first loss in 13 months but faces the daunting prospect of trying to control St. Louis’ high-octane passing attack with second-year man Asante Samuel and rookie Randall Gay filling in for injured cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole.

“What are you going to do, sulk because [Pro Bowl corner Law] isn’t here?” said safety Rodney Harrison. “We’ve got to play the game.”

The veteran Rams still replay the Super Bowl loss in their minds.

“I’ll never truly forget it, unless I get a ring on my finger,” defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. “I still remember turning around and watching [Adam Vinatieri’s last-second, 48-yard field goal] sail through the uprights and all that confetti falling.”

Vikings-Colts — Minnesota was 6-0 when it was stunned by the visiting New York Giants on Oct.26, 2003. The Vikings finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs. So when the Giants upset the host Vikings 34-13 again last Sunday to end their four-game winning streak, receiver Kelly Campbell said, “I’m pretty sure that there are people who’ll think this is the same team that fell apart last year. We’re not. We’re going to show that in Indianapolis.”

Doing so will be much harder for the Vikings (5-2) without Randy Moss. The All-Pro receiver has played just 11 snaps the past 2 games because of a strained hamstring. Moss, who doesn’t figure to be 100 percent until late this month, will sit out the nonconference game and get ready for the more important NFC North showdown at Green Bay next week.

Minnesota’s defense allows 349.4 yards a game, but Indianapolis’ is even worse, ranking last at 418.7. Kansas City racked up 590 yards in last Sunday’s 45-35 victory that dropped the Colts to 4-3. Tackle Montae Reagor is tired of hearing about his unit’s youth.

“We’ve been young for two years,” Reagor said. “Some time you’ve got to grow up.”

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is having a scintillating season with a 22-4 touchdown/interception ratio, 309 yards a game and a 117.4 rating. Despite a dropoff since Moss was hurt, Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper leads the NFC with nearly identical statistics: 20-5 touchdown/interception ratio, 311 yards a game and a 114.2 rating.

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