Fast Five: Falcons vs. Steelers
Five takeaways from Sunday's game
In a back-and-forth struggle reminiscent of the last time these two teams squared off at Heinz Field, the Steelers topped the Falcons in overtime, 15-9, on a 50-yard Rashard Mendenhall overtimetouchdown run. Five takeaways from the tough overtime loss:
1. Defense comes up big
Facing an offense without Pittsburgh star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might seem like a much easier task, but the Steelers have a lot of offensive weapons, and when backup quarterback Dennis Dixon is on, he can cause a lot of problems for defense. The Falcons' defense, however, handled Pittsburgh offense with a lot of poise. The Steelers were held to just 9 points in regulation and John Abraham, Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton and rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon turned in fantastic performances.
2. The Falcons missed some
The obvious missed opportunity was Matt Bryant's 46-yard miss in the second quarter, but the Falcons had several chances to change the momentum of the game. Several near interceptions by Falcons defenders could have allowed the visitors to take the crowd out of the game and come away with points. And of course Steelers kicker Jeff Reed's miss with 0:42 in regulation afforded the Falcons another shot in overtime. Atlanta won the toss, but a pair of penalties (one on the kickoff return and a costly holding penalty) put them behind the eight-ball early in the extra period.
3. Records were set and broken
The Falcons knew that Sunday was going to be a big day regardless as two players had a chance to reach milestones. Tony Gonzalez came into the game needing just one catch to become the first tight end in NFL history with 1,000 catches. He got it in the third quarter, after his first catch was called back on a penalty. Center Todd McClure also had a game to remember as his start Sunday marked the 129th consecutive for the veteran, good enough for a franchise record.
4. Big hits all around
The Falcons were able to lay some big hits in the game, including perhaps the biggest of all — Chris Owens' shelling of Steelers punt returner Atwanaan Randle-El. The defense played with an intensity all game that really came out when hits were doled out.
5. Pass rush not enough
Another sack for Kroy Biermann, and Abraham and Lofton both followed suit. But Steelers QB Dennis Dixon, who passed for 236 yards on the day, was elusive to up-field rushers and frequently bought time to get off passes.