The Pittsburgh Steelers ripped another gaping hole in the San Francisco 49ers' tattered mystique.
Kordell Stewart, shaking free of his own early-season problems, led five scoring drives as the visiting Steelers beat the 49ers, 27-6, yesterday--San Francisco's fourth consecutive loss and second straight at home.
"This is eating at me little by little," said Jerry Rice, who was held to two catches for two yards.
Stewart, whose 60.6 quarterback rating entering the game ranked in the bottom third in the AFC, completed 15 of 26 passes for 139 yards, cutting through a San Francisco defense that has given up the second-most points and the most yards passing in the league.
Jerome Bettis ran for touchdowns of one and 22 yards and Hines Ward caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Stewart, helping the Steelers (5-3) overcome rain and a sloppy field to win for the fourth time in five road games this season.
Despite a career-high 166 yards rushing on 20 carries by Charlie Garner, the 49ers' once-vaunted offense was held without a touchdown for the second straight game.
JAGUARS 30, FALCONS 7: In Atlanta, Mark Brunell threw three touchdown passes, Fred Taylor ran for 124 yards and the top-rated Jaguars' defense was stifling.
Jacksonville (7-1), which moved a game ahead of Tennessee in the AFC Central after the Titans lost at Miami, set a team record by sacking Atlanta quarterbacks nine times. The Falcons managed only four first downs and 58 yards in the second half.
"It was a sharkfest," Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens said.
Brunell left the game early in the fourth after completing 14 of 27 passes for 203 yards. Taylor, showing he is fully recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of three games, carried a season-high 27 times for 124 yards, his second straight 100-yard game.
SEAHAWKS 37, BENGALS 20: Jon Kitna passed for three touchdowns in the first half and Ricky Watters scored his first touchdowns of the season as surging Seattle won at home. Under new coach Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks (6-2) moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC West with their best first-half record since 1984.
"I'll take it. I feel great about it," Holmgren said. "We did some good things today."
It was the second win in six days for the Seahawks, who were coming off a Monday night win over Green Bay. Seattle could get more good news today, when star wide receiver Joey Galloway is expected to end his season-long holdout.
The Bengals (1-8) lost their fourth in a row for the second time this season.
JETS 12, CARDINALS 7: In a season full of disappointment for both teams, New York was a little less pitiful than Arizona. Keyshawn Johnson awakened from a game-long slumber to catch a 43-yard scoring pass from a struggling Rick Mirer with 5 minutes 29 seconds remaining, lifting the Jets at home.
New York (2-6), which won for the first time in five home games, was helped by Arizona's sputtering attack, and a defense that sacked Dave Brown six times. Curtis Martin rushed for more than 100 yards for the third straight game, gaining 131 on a club-record 38 carries. His production was especially important in swirling winds that reached 23 mph.
"Not everything went the way we drew it up," said Mirer, who was 12 for 18 for 122 yards in the unpredictable wind. "But we worked it out."
BUCCANEERS 31, SAINTS 16: In New Orleans, Trent Dilfer, benched last week for Eric Zeier, returned to throw three touchdown passes for Tampa Bay.
Dilfer, back in the starting spot because of Zeier's injured ribs, made the most of it, throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass to Jacquez Green to open the Bucs' scoring.
Dilfer found John Davis for a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Martin Gramatica kicked a 35-yard field goal to put the Bucs (4-4) up 17-6 at the half and break an eight-quarter scoring drought for Tampa Bay.
Dilfer, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 227 yards, added a 10-yard touchdown pass to Darnell McDonald (Hayfield High) in the third quarter.
BRONCOS 33, CHARGERS 17: In San Diego, the bumbling, fumbling Chargers found another way to give away a game.
Four San Diego turnovers led to 17 Denver points, as the Broncos won their fifth straight over their AFC West rivals.
Rookie running back Olandis Gary (Riverdale Baptist), who took over after Terrell Davis was lost for the season, scored twice and rushed for 108 yards, the first time in 27 games that San Diego has allowed a 100-yard runner. The last back to do it was Davis, who rushed for 178 yards in a 38-28 Broncos win on Nov. 30, 1997.