Swarming defense lifts Eagles over Steelers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Ben Roethlisberger had a bandage on his throwing hand and winced while dressing. Considering he was persistently chased, battered and stomped by the Philadelphia Eagles, the damage could’ve been worse.

With Brian Westbrook sidelined and Donovan McNabb hurting, the Eagles did it with defense.

A swarming D had nine sacks, forced a safety and got three turnovers, and Philadelphia beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 15-6 Sunday.

“We can’t thank them enough for how they played,” running back Correll Buckhalter said. “They bailed us out.”

Just six days earlier, Philly’s defense couldn’t stop anybody. The Dallas Cowboys moved the ball at will in a 41-37 victory last Monday.

But this unit was rejuvenated against the Steelers (2-1). Roethlisberger had no time to throw and Willie Parker couldn’t find any room to run. Juqua Parker had 2 1/2 sacks as the Eagles kept blitzing Roethlisberger, banged him around and eventually knocked him out of the game.

“Defensively, it was a phenomenal job,” coach Andy Reid said. “They were coming off a game they were disappointed in their performance. To rebound like that, I’m proud of them.”

Clinging to a 10-6 lead, the Eagles pinned Pittsburgh at the 6 following a 54-yard punt by Sav Rocca. Three plays later, Roethlisberger was under heavy pressure when he threw the ball away in the end zone for a safety.

On Pittsburgh’s next possession, Brian Dawkins made a flying sack, swatting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hand and recovering at the Steelers 18. David Akers kicked a 31-yard field goal to ice it.

Roethlisberger hurt his throwing hand on the last sack and was replaced by Byron Leftwich when the Steelers got the ball with just over 2 minutes left. Coach Mike Tomlin said X-rays on Roethlisberger’s hand were negative and he’s expected to play next week.

“You’ve got to give it to them,” Roethlisberger said. “They are a very good team. They got after us.”

Westbrook injured his right ankle on the first play of the second quarter. The All-Pro running back appeared to get hurt while hurdling a teammate on a 2-yard run. He walked to the locker room without help, but didn’t return.

Reid said X-rays showed the ankle wasn’t broken, but Westbrook will have an MRI on Monday. The Eagles (2-1) can’t afford to be without Westbrook for an extended period.

One play before Westbrook left, McNabb was visibly shaken up after getting sacked. He played the rest of the half and took a hard hit to the chest late in the second quarter. McNabb stayed in the locker room after the half, but returned during Philadelphia’s second series in the third quarter.

Backup Kevin Kolb was intercepted by Troy Polamalu on his first pass, which was deflected. The Steelers took over at the Eagles 49, but went nowhere.

McNabb got a nice ovation when he returned to the sideline and he replaced Kolb after the second-year pro completed two straight passes.

McNabb completed his first 15 passes and finished 24-for-35 for 196 yards and one TD. Roethlisberger was 13-of-25 for 131 yards. Both QBs threw their first interceptions of the season.

Parker, who had 243 yards rushing in the first two games, was held to 20 yards on 13 carries.

“They had a great scheme,” Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. “We didn’t have all 11 guys on the same page. They had our whole offense confused at times.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is known for his complex schemes and penchant for blitzing. After a disappointing effort against Dallas, he made some adjustments. It helped that Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and Marion Barber weren’t on the other side.

“Our guys were aggressive and the coverage was good,” Johnson said. “You have confidence in the blitz when the coverage is good. The game was tight and we kept coming after them.”

On the same drive Westbrook left the game, the Eagles went ahead 7-3 on McNabb’s 20-yard pass to Buckhalter. McNabb completed a 20-yard pass to Hank Baskett on third-and-15 to the Steelers 46.

Buckhalter then caught a short pass, eluded a tackler and hurdled another from the 4 to reach the end zone. McNabb moved ahead of Ron Jaworksi for first on the team’s all-time list with 176 TD passes.

On Pittsburgh’s ensuing possession, the Eagles sacked Roethlisberger three times and forced a fumble. A 31-yard field goal by Akers made it 10-3.

Bryant McFadden’s pick set up Jeff Reed’s career-best 53-yard field goal that cut it to 10-6.

Reed had kicked a 37-yarder for a 3-0 lead. It was the first time Pittsburgh was inside the 20 and didn’t score a touchdown this season after starting 6-for-6.

Notes

The Steelers have lost eight in a row in Philadelphia, dating to 1965. … Steelers DT Casey Hampton left with a groin injury. … Eagles RB Tony Hunt (concussion) and TE L.J. Smith (back) joined McNabb and Westbrook on the injury list.

Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Pittsburgh
H. Miller Heath Miller TE
4 Rec, 63 yds
 Philadelphia
C. Buckhalter Correll Buckhalter RB
10 Rush, 43 yds
6 Rec, 44 yds, 1 TD

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards

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