Today in Patriots History: January 5
Pats crush Steelers in The Fog Bowl
Pats crush Steelers in The Fog Bowl
Sunday, January 5, 1997 at 12:30
1996 AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game, at Foxboro Stadium
New England Patriots 28, Pittsburgh Steelers 3
Head Coaches: Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher
Quarterbacks: Drew Bledsoe, Mike Tomczak
Odds: New England favored by 3
Weather: 42 degrees, 98% humidity, 8 mph wind; dense fog
Game MVP: Curtis Martin
Pittsburgh finishes the season 11-7 after a 9-3 start
New England makes it to the Super Bowl, losing to Green Bay
Pro Football Reference Box Score and Stats
With Steelers in a Fog, Patriots Roll Along | Washington Post
After two weeks to prepare for their first home playoff game in 18 years, the New England Patriots went into attack mode on their first offensive play today. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed a 53-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Terry Glenn, and from that moment, the Pittsburgh Steelers flailed in the fog at Foxboro Stadium.
The Patriots, whose 11-5 regular season record assured them a bye in the first round of playoffs, arrived today with plenty of motivation, the defense in particular. They had been reading all week about the Steelers' fearsome zone blitzes, their big-back attack and their two-man quarterback tandem that was supposed to slash and bash the home team halfway to Cape Cod.
Instead, the Patriots came out and controlled both lines of scrimmage. Their defense held the Steelers (11-7) to 213 yards — only 90 passing — allowed Jerome Bettis 43 yards rushing and sacked Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart three times, with countless knockdowns after passes were released.
"We wanted to make a statement," said linebacker Chris Slade, a Virginia graduate who leveled Tomczak after he threw his first two passes, one for no gain, the second incomplete. "We had something to prove today. Everyone was saying what they were gonna' do to our offense. We were mad. We took it personal."
So did the offense.
Curtis Martin converted the opening pass play from Bledsoe to Glenn — thrown against All-Pro cornerback Rod Woodson — into a two-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Our guys played with a little chip on their shoulders," said Bledsoe, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown. Bledsoe's sweetly executed 34-yard screen pass to veteran fullback Keith Byars gave New England a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Martin rushed for a team playoff-record 166 yards on 19 carries and had three touchdown runs. His 78-yard dash — he second longest scoring run in NFL playoff history — on a Steelers blitz gave the Patriots a 21-0 lead with 9:55 remaining in the first half on a play Parcells described as "taking it to the house."
Martin made his final house call with a 23-yard scoring run for a 28-3 advantage that settled things once and for all with 12:31 left in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers, meanwhile, headed home a week after their own dominating 42-14 victory over the visiting Colts in their wild-card game. Tomczak saw blitzing Patriots coming in from all directions before yielding to Kordell Stewart, who was equally ineffective. Stewart was 0 for 10 passing and rushed 19 yards in four carries.
The Patriots began throwing right from the start, on a play Parcells said had been planned by his offensive staff and approved, somewhat reluctantly, by the head coach. "I was choking on it a little," Parcells admitted later. "We talked about that one last night a little bit . . . You've got to try to attack. We had pretty good field position, so we thought we'd try and do it . . . We were trying to get a little momentum."
On first and 10 at their own 45, Glenn lined up wide to the right, with Woodson defending him man to man. Bledsoe (pictured) helped with a play-action fake to a running back, then heaved the ball through the mist and into the waiting arms of Glenn, a step ahead of the defender and running in full stride. Glenn caught the ball at the 10 and was tripped up by Woodson at the 2. On the next play, Martin scored off right tackle, and the rout was on.
"Rod Woodson's a great player," Bledsoe said. "He does a great job of sitting on routes and making plays on curl outs and comeback passes. We really felt like we had to run by him early and we decided, hey, why not the first play of the game?"
A Souper Sunday: The Steelers were in a fog against the Patriots, who beat them at their own game | Sports Illustrated
switch had been made under cover of fog. How else to explain the New England Patriots' role-reversing 28-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff? While the Patriots came into the game with a defense made up of competent unknowns, their Steelers counterparts arrived in Foxboro with a nickname--Blitzburgh--and a recent record of violence against quarterbacks.
In a wild-card playoff game on Dec. 29, Pittsburgh sacked Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh four times, broke one of his teeth and opened a gash on his chin that required 15 stitches. But on Sunday, in a fog so dense that Foxboro Stadium resembled the inside of Hunter S. Thompson's head, the Patriots played like the Steelers while the Steelers played like the old Patsies.
Defending AFC champion Pittsburgh had the NFL's second-best sack total (51) during the regular season, but it was the New England front seven (33 sacks in 1996) that generated the most heat on Sunday. The Steelers' quarterback combination of Mike Tomczak and Kordell (Slash) Stewart, rather than Patriots passer Drew Bledsoe, spent the afternoon serving as crash-test dummies.
Afterward, the New England defenders, an unheralded but steadily improving bunch, revealed their motivation: They were tired of hearing about, as defensive end Willie McGinest put it, "Slash this and Blitzburgh and the Bus [Steelers running back Jerome Bettis]."
Complementing their righteous indignation was a bold game plan in which the Patriots stunted and blitzed as aggressively as the Steelers usually do.
1997 ESPN NFL Prime Time (1996 Sunday Divisional Playoffs):
Very grainy, old VHS quality highlights with lots of retro ads in the last few minutes