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After overturned TD, Harmon makes INT sealing wild win for Patriots

By JIM WEXELL
The Sports Xchange

December 17. 2017 8:43PM
New England Patriots strong safety Duron Harmon celebrates after intercepting the ball in the end zone against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Patriots won 27-24. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)



PITTSBURGH — Tom Brady cut out the Pittsburgh Steelers’ heart once again.

And he got help from Duron Harmon.

Brady led the New England Patriots to the winning touchdown with 56 seconds left that gave his club a 27-24 win over the Steelers, ruining Pittsburgh’s chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye and potentially homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Brady led the Patriots to a touchdown scored by Dion Lewis on an eight-yard run that capped a 77-yard drive in 1:10 to complete a rally from a 24-16 deficit.

But the Steelers came right back on a 69-yard catch-and-run by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. He gave the Steelers the ball at the New England 10 with 34 seconds left.

Tight end Jesse James appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown, but his 10-yard reception was reviewed and James was ruled to have not completed the catch. The ball came loose when he impacted the ground.

Ben Roethlisberger scrambled to give the Steelers two more chances at winning the game, but his final pass was deflected by Eric Rowe and intercepted by Harmon in the end zone with five seconds left.

The game was marred by a calf injury suffered in the first half by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who was taken to a hospital for further examination and treatment.

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James fails to hold the ball as he falls across the goal line against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty and strong safety Duron Harmon during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The play was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots won 27-24. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Vince Williams had made the Steelers’ defensive play of the game that helped turn a one-point lead into an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. The linebacker’s interception of Brady’s third-and-2 pass to Rob Gronkowski gave the Steelers the ball at the New England 22.

Le’Veon Bell gave the Steelers a 24-16 lead with a 3-yard touchdown run behind a pulling David DeCastro with 1:33 left in the third.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 46-yard field goal with 3:56 remaining to cut into the deficit and fate did the rest.

The Steelers hoped this was the game they could hurdle the Patriots, but New England extinguished the Steelers’ hope for a quick start by scoring the game’s first touchdown.

A pair of play-action fakes by Brady in the backfield allowed Brandin Cooks to get open for a 43-yard completion on the Patriots’ first possession. Two plays later, Rex Burkhead ran through right guard for a 1-yard touchdown and early 7-0 lead.

The Steelers answered with a touchdown, thanks to a couple of third-down catch-and-runs by Brown and Smith-Schuster. The catches set up Roethlisberger’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Eli Rogers to tie the game 7-7 with 3:28 left in the opening quarter.

The Steelers jumped to a 10-7 lead on a 51-yard Chris Boswell early in the second quarter, but at a high cost. Brown injured his left calf in the end zone two plays before the field goal and was helped off the field.

Gostkowski tied the score at 10-10 with a 32-yard field goal at 9:04 of the second. The kick was set up by a 31-yard Brady pass to Gronkowski while the Steelers had only 10 men on the field.

The Steelers put together a long 8:39 drive to finish the half with a 17-10 lead. Roethlisberger finished the drive with a 4-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, who ran under the spot pass and made a one-handed catch in the end zone.

Brady took the Patriots in for a touchdown to open the second half. His third-down pass to Cooks delivered a four-yard touchdown, but Gostkowski missed the extra point and the Steelers clung to a 17-16 led with 8:50 left in the third. The wild fourth quarter followed to put the Patriots in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

NOTES: Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier was at the game in a luxury suite. He was shown on the Jumbotron waving a Terrible Towel as the Patriots took the field for their first possession. ... Steelers rookie CB Cameron Sutton started for the first time in his career as Joe Haden was deactivated. ... DE Cameron Heyward’s first-quarter sack was his 10th of the season, the first Steelers defensive lineman since Keith Willis in (12 in 1986) to record double-digit sacks in a season. ... With his first catch, WR Antonio Brown became the first player in NFL history with five consecutive 100-reception seasons. ... WR Kenny Britt made his first catch with the Patriots in the second quarter, a seven-yarder. New England recently signed Britt after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. ... Patriots RB Rex Burkhead was helped from the field after a knee injury on a carry near the goal line early in the third quarter. ... The Steelers lost a running back with a sprained knee when rookie James Conner was helped off the field with 9:41 left. ... The Patriots host the Bills on Christmas Eve.


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