The Atlanta Falcons are in the final stretch of the regular season as they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Georgia Dome. Fans came out to have fun before the game. Here are pictures of gameday.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The honors this week go to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who did just enough to keep the Falcons are arm's length throughout Sunday's game. Roethlisberger racked up 360 yards of passing, going 27-of-35 in the winning effort. Despite not recording a passing touchdown, the Steelers signal-caller was pivotal in the Pittsburgh win, especially down the stretch as he found ways to sustain drives against a Falcons defense that had shown capability of getting off the field.
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Falcons' defense had just come off the field after forcing a second Steelers field goal to keep Atlanta within one score. That's when Steelers cornerback William Gay jumped a route on a pass intended for Harry Douglas and took off down the field. Weaving his way through traffic, Gay found a path to the end zone to complete the pick-six. Had the play not happened, things could have been much different as the Falcons started to battle back in the second half. Instead of facing a 13-13 tie, the Falcons were facing a 20-13, and eventually a 27-13, deficit early in the fourth quarter.
TURNING POINT: Down 27-20 with just more than six minutes left, the Falcons' defense forced a Steelers punt. As the offense found some consistency in the second half, the drive would be critical to any hopes of completing a comeback. In three plays, however, the offense couldn't muster 10 yards and the team was forced to punt. The defense looked like it could save the day on the Steelers' next drive as Roethlisberger tried to earn a first down with a pass over the middle that went incomplete. Desmond Trufant was called for illegal contact on the play and the drive continued for the Steelers.
INJURY ROUNDUP: Starting right guard Jon Asamoah was taken to locker room around two-minute warning in the first half. He was listed as questionable to return. Gabe Carimi took over for him in the second half. … Cornerback Josh Wilson was injured on a kickoff early in the third quarter. He came off the field and was taken to the locker room, clutching his left arm. He was announced as having a hand injury and his return was questionable.
RED ZONE WOES: The Falcons took two trips into the red zone during the third quarter but only came away with two field goals from the effort. Settling for six points instead of 14 proved pivotal in a game where there were plenty of opportunities to pull ahead of Pittsburgh.
"I knew once we got down there, we had to score touchdowns," wide receiver Roddy White said. "First-and-goal from the 2-yard line — just unacceptable for us not to get in the end zone. It hurt us at the end. You just can't keep getting down there and putting yourself into bad situations, kicking field goals from the 5-yard line and in. That's not good football, especially with the players we have on our team."
RECORDS MEAN LITTLE: With a 4-yard touchdown reception in the second half, White became the Falcons' all-time leading touchdown scorer, passing Michael Turner's record of 61.
"It didn't mean anything today because we didn't win," White said. "You get judged in this league on wins and losses, and that's all that really matters."
DIVISION IN THE BALANCE: The Falcons have held onto the top spot in a, well, let's say "competitive" NFC South for a few weeks. That reign came to an end by virtue of Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh and Carolina's 19-17 win over Tampa Bay. The Panthers, currently 5-8-1, now sit atop the NFC South.
Atlanta, however, is still in the driver's seat. If the Falcons win their next two games — at New Orleans at in the Georgia Dome against Carolina — they'll lock up the NFC South title.
"It's crazy right now, the situation that we're in. I thank God for it," Devin Hester said. "We haven't been playing up to the situation that we're in right now, but it is what it is. We still control our destiny. We still have a great chance of winning our division right now. These next two weeks are the most important games of our season."