From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Their franchise quarterback on his way to the hospital, the momentum firmly on the other side of the field after a stunning last-minute rally by one the NFL's worst teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared lost.Then linebacker Lawrence Timmons provided a reminder that -- Ben Roethlisberger or no Ben Roethlisberger -- Pittsburgh's identity begins and ends with defense.Timmons intercepted Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel on the second snap of overtime and Shaun Suisham drilled a 23-yard field goal one play later to lift the Steelers to a 16-13 victory over the hapless Chiefs."We just stayed positive," Timmons said. "It's easy to get down on yourself, but we are not like that. We stand up, face adversity."Good thing, because there's plenty to go around.The Steelers (6-3) have won four straight but played most of the second half without Roethlisberger, who left with a right shoulder injury in the third quarter after getting sacked by Kansas City linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.Coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't speculate on the severity of Roethlisberger's injury and his status for Sunday's showdown with AFC North leader Baltimore is uncertain."It didn't seem like a tough hit ... but he came to the sideline and next thing you know he was gone," Pittsburgh left tackle Max Starks said. "I'm hoping it was nothing serious. Honestly it didn't seem like it."Veteran backup Byron Leftwich came on in relief and completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards in his first regular season game in nearly two years."It wasn't a pretty body of work by any of us, but his consistency remains the same in terms of being a stabilizing force for us," Tomlin said.Jamaal Charles ran for 100 yards and a score for the Chiefs (1-8), who have lost six straight.The Chiefs had their chances, taking their first lead in regulation all season in the first half then overcoming a series of embarrassing miscues to tie the game at 13 at the end of regulation.Taking over at the Kansas City 20 with 1:51 remaining, Cassel led the Chiefs 52 yards -- converting a 4th-and-15 in the process -- to set up a 46-yard field goal by Ryan Succop as time expired."I thought our guys played and competed all night long," Cassel said. "We went up against a good football team and unfortunately we weren't able to pull it out in the end but I thought the way the guys handled the environment of Monday Night Football was great."Kansas City's only other victory this season came in overtime, a stunning upset in New Orleans in September. Any chance at a repeat faded when Cassel's pass on the second play of extra period landed in the hands of Timmons, who returned it 23 yards to set up Suisham's second game-winning field goal of the season.It was sweet vindication for a Pittsburgh defense that allowed AFC lesser lights Tennessee and Oakland to mount fourth-quarter comebacks earlier this season. Though the Steelers only managed to get the Chiefs -- last in the NFL in turnover differential -- to cough it up once, timing is everything."We got the one that count baby," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We got the one that count. They did a good job tonight, but we got the one that was big time."Tomlin didn't waste any time, sending the field goal team out immediately. Suisham's kick was good all the way, and now the Steelers begin a critical three-game stretch wondering when their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback will be ready.Roethlisberger is in the midst of a career year but struggled through a so-so first half and was 9 of 18 for 84 yards and a touchdown when he tried to buy time in the pocket hoping to convert on third-and-4. Hali and Houston swarmed in and sent him into the turf, driving his throwing shoulder into the ground.Enter Leftwich, who managed to lead the Steelers on one scoring drive early in the fourth that gave them a 13-10 lead."After four or five plays, it was like riding a bike," Leftwich said. "I took a few hits. I hadn't hit the ground in awhile. It was a whole lot of things I hadn't done in awhile. It was good."Pittsburgh came in riding a three-game winning streak that erased the sour taste of a 2-3 start, and the Steelers insisted all week they wouldn't look past the Chiefs.Funny, Pittsburgh certainly looked distracted at the start of a raw, soggy night at Heinz Field.The Chiefs didn't take long to erase one bit of misery in their lifeless, luckless season, taking their first lead since New Year's Day during a spirited first half in which they avoided the kind of gaffes -- turnovers, penalties, assignment breakdowns -- that have plagued them all year.With Charles gashing Pittsburgh's defensive line and Cassel avoiding mistakes, Kansas City raced in front 10-0. Cassel hit Tony Moeaki for 38 yards on the Chiefs' second drive, setting up a 12-yard touchdown run by Charles to give Kansas City its first lead since a 7-3 victory over Denver in the 2011 regular-season finale.The lead grew to 10-0 after an Isaac Redman fumble deep in Pittsburgh territory led to a 22-yard field goal by Succop."I think we played well in all phases," Cassel said. "That was the first time we played well together this year."Like any brief flirtation with success for Kansas City, it didn't last. The Steelers pulled even at halftime on a 35-yard field goal by Suisham and a remarkable 7-yard touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone. The ball slid through Wallace's hands, but he secured it with his legs -- and controlled it -- before rolling out of bounds.There would be no second-half carryover, however. Whatever energy the Steelers had vanished the second Roethlisberger trudged to the sideline holding his right shoulder.In that moment all the chatter about Kansas City's visit and former Chiefs coach turned Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley's shot at revenge vanished.NOTES:The Steelers have won 15 consecutive home games on Monday night ... Roethlisberger topped 1,000 career rushing yards with a 13-yard scramble in the first half ... Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark left the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion.
If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J. Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.
Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.
But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.
SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:
1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.
There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.
Was there anything positive to take from this game?
“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”
The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.
Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.
Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.
3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.
The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.
More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.
Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.
“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.