Steve Grogan passed to rookie Stephen Starring on a 76-yard touchdown play with 3:59 remaining as the New England Patriots rallied to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers, 28-23, spoiling Franco Harris' run into the NFL record books today.
Harris carried 25 times for 106 yards to become the NFL's second all-time leading rusher with 11,309 yards. He passed O.J. Simpson, who had 11,236 yards, in the first half and finished the game 1,003 yards behind career rushing leader Jim Brown.
"Losing this game takes a lot away from it. It really does," said Harris, who broke the record with an 11-yard run late in the first period.
The Patriots, who stunned the New York Jets in their previous game, turned two interceptions off Cliff Stoudt into touchdowns to take a 14-13 halftime lead, then cooled a fourth-period rally by Pittsburgh with Grogan's second scoring pass of the day.
Stoudt found Walter Abercrombie open in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 4:58 left in the game to end a quick 65-yard scoring drive and push the Steelers into a 23-21 lead, their first since an early 7-0 advantage.
But Grogan, repeatedly completing passes in the Pittsburgh secondary, then found Starring open at the Patriots' 40-yard line on a second-down play. Cornerback Dwayne Woodruff appeared to have Starring trapped against the sideline, but the rookie from McNeese State swerved back to the middle of the field, eluding Woodruff, and moved untouched into the end zone for the second scoring pass of his NFL career.
Rick Sanford later intercepted Stoudt for the second time in the game, and the Patriots stopped Pittsburgh's final possession by twice sacking Stoudt after the Steelers had driven to the New England 32 in the final minute.
"Two of them were bad throws," said Stoudt, who frequently drew choruses of boos from Steelers' fans. "They were just bad throws. I'd just like some of my bad throws to go untouched."
Tony Collins ran four yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 21-13 lead on an 80-yard drive in which Grogan had a 32-yard pass to Starring.
The Steelers (2-2) closed to 21-16 on a 28-yard field goal by Gary Anderson with 9:25 remaining.