First Quarter: It took a few minutes, but the Falcons finally got warmed up. But when they finally did, they found themselves in a 10-0 hole. Atlanta allowed a 51-yard return on the opening kickoff and three plays later Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall punched it in on a one-yard run. Atlanta and Pittsburgh traded unsuccessful possessions before Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan tossed an interception on a pass intended for Harry Douglas. The return put Pittsburgh on Atlanta's 4-yard line before the Falcons defense stiffened up and stuffed all attempts to run the ball into the endzone. Pittsburgh took the field goal and the 10-0 lead and the Falcons responded with a no-huddle offense and marched all the way down the field but couldn't find six, settling for a field goal to draw with seven.
Second Quarter:The second quarter featured a more successful Falcons offense and a continued strong effort from the front line on defense. Defensive tackle Vance Walker opened the half with a sack of Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, leading to a three-and-out series. Eric Weems returned the punt 48 yards and Atlanta's offense turned on the ignition. The Falcons put together an eight-play, 38-yard touchdown drive that featured two third-down conversions. Douglas converted the first on a 13-yard grab while getting hammered safety Ryan Clark. The drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Roddy White.
The quarter was far from over however, as the Steelers responded immediately with a 77-yard touchdown strike. The Falcons responded with a strike of their own, though it was unsuccessful. Rookie receiver Julio Jones got past two defenders and Ryan threw a deep bomb that Jones couldn't hang on to in the end zone. Though touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez was called back after a penalty, the Falcons still managed a field goal from Matt Bryant. Bryant would add another just before the half, making him eight-for-eight on the preseason. The Steelers went deep once again on their following possession, scoring again on a long touchdown giving them a 24-13 edge and Bryant's final field goal would make the score 24-16 at the half.
Third Quarter:Atlanta's second-team offense began the second half while the first-team defense continued to take the field into the quarter. Backup quarterback Chris Redman operated the offense well, but the star of the quarter was Atlanta's rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The small, yet stout back churned through Pittsburgh's first-team defense, notoriously stout against the run, even flashing some impressive strength, dragging a defender on an eight-yard run. The quarter ended without any scores.
Fourth Quarter:The first play of the quarter gave the Steelers a 31-16 lead. Pittsburgh's Crezdon Butler intercepted Redman's pass at the 5lo-yard line and took it back all the way for the touchdown. The Quizz Show continued in the fourth, with the running back continuing his impressive production. He ended his night with give touches, gaining 50 yards. Seven of his touches were rushes for 38 yards. A late field goal by the Steelers gave the game it's final out come: a Pittsburgh 34-16 victory.
Play of the Game:The preseason is for a lot of things: individual evaluations, working out the kinks and fine-tuning the offense, among other things. An often over-looked aspect is showing the rest of the league a sign of some things to come. One such play occurred tonight and despite its unintended results it's the play of the night. The second quarter bomb that Ryan threw to Jones was dropped by the rookie as he stumbled and hit the turf in the end zone. It's a catch he'd think he should have made, but it was a tough play. However, what it showed is Atlanta's ability to go deep — very deep — and as a result the rest of the NFL must respect the fact that the Falcons are capable of gaining huge chunks of yards in one play.
Player of the Game:After catching only one pass in the preseason heading into Saturday night, Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White reminded everyone Saturday why he's still one of the best. As the Atlanta passes began to fly so too did the Steelers all over the field, trying to prevent all of Atlanta's weapons from making plays. White was a big target, catching eight passes to the tune of 101 yards and a touchdown and he showed even with all those weapons, he can still be the most dangerous player on the field.
Turning Point: After a tough start for Atlanta's offense, return man Eric Weems gave the team the boost he did more than a few times last season. After a three-and-out series by the Steelers, Weems returned the punt 48 yards to Pittsburgh's 38. With the short field, Ryan went to work on the eight-play drive ending with White's touchdown catch.
Stat of the Game:Atlanta's first-team offense put up 266 yards on Pittsburgh tough defense in the first half. 220 of those yards came through the air from Ryan, who was 22-of-42 with one touchdown and one interception.
Tweet of the Game: The third preseason game always creates a buzz. It's the game targeted for first-teamers to hone in on the regular season. It's a game the fans love the most because it provides the best glimpse into what your team may be. Atlanta-Pittsburgh on Saturday produced a lot of excitement and while the game's loss for Atlanta made it tough to swallow, the enthusiasm by the fans never stopped. During the first quarter, @ECW_fan shared this: "Slightly more excited for a preseason game than I should be #atlpit11"
Quote of the Day:Matt Ryan hasn't always been known as a gunslinger, but he showed Saturday that he's got what it takes. Entering the game, the offense knew running the ball would be a tough task, so they opted to air it out. Ryan threw 42 passes in his half of work. He felt being able to go out and get that kind of passing work in could be helfpful down the line:
"I didn't think anybody thought 40. Pittsburgh is staunch against the run. Sometimes that's what you've got to do. I thought it was good for us to get out there and get that kind of work done because there might be regular season games that come up like that this year. We'd like to be more balanced, but we're going to do what we need to do."