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Steelers Throw Some Big Plays at the Patriots : AFC: O'Donnell's 62-yard touchdown pass to Mills is the deciding factor as Pittsburgh wins eighth in a row, 41-27.

December 17, 1995|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh's league-leading defense scored twice and Neil O'Donnell threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Ernie Mills with 1:28 left Saturday as the Steelers defeated the New England Patriots, 41-27.

The Steelers (11-4) blew a 12-point lead, but scored two touchdowns in the final 1:30 of each half to extend an NFL-leading eight-game winning streak. It is their longest since a nine-game streak in 1978-79.

"Big plays made this game, and this team is thinking big things," linebacker Kevin Greene said. "We made some mistakes, but this team has the will to win and we managed to keep putting out the fires."

O'Donnell threw two touchdown passes, Kordell Stewart had his first NFL rushing touchdown on a drive started by his two pass completions and Brentson Buckner and Chris Oldham scored defensive touchdowns. The AFC Central champion Steelers now are assured of a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game.

"I wasn't panicking on that last drive," said O'Donnell, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 195 yards. "I just thought, 'Give me the ball and let's go get at least a field goal.' Then, boom, Ernie made the big play."

Patriot Coach Bill Parcells blamed reserve defensive back Carlos Yancy for the blown coverage. Yancy also was beaten on Yancey Thigpen's 14-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter.

"There was no miscommunication. He just got beat," Parcells said. "We had 38 guys playing their rear ends off and about seven I wish I'd left at home. They made a couple of plays and we didn't, and that's about all the difference there was between the two teams."

One of those plays came from Stewart, the quarterback/wide receiver whom the Steelers couldn't figure out how to use until midseason.

Stewart came in with Pittsburgh leading, 17-12, in the third quarter after the first of Drew Bledsoe's two six-yard touchdown passes to Ben Coates.

Stewart threw to Mills for nine yards and Thigpen for 32, then shifted to receiver as O'Donnell entered the game. Lined up in the slot, Stewart took a pitch and ran 22 yards to put Pittsburgh ahead, 24-12.

"People got on me the other day for not using him enough," Steeler Coach Bill Cowher said. "We just figured it was a good time to use him."

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