Week 7 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Atlanta Falcons 41
What you need to know
QB Ben Roethlisberger was well on his way to a record setting game until he was sandwiched between three Falcons’ defenders with 7:45 left in the third quarter. He was on the receiving end of a helmet to helmet hit with DE Chauncey Davis and lay motionless for a couple minutes before being helped off the field on foot. Roethlisberger was then carted off the field, but returned in street clothes in the fourth quarter and was alert, albeit subdued, on the sidelines for the duration of the game. He had completed 16 of 22 for 238 yards and three touchdowns before his departure. Backup QB Charlie Batch picked up where Roethlisberger left off, completing 8 of 13 for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Hines Ward had a career game with 171 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions. Two of his TDs put the Steelers in front, and the third tied the game at 38. His long of 70 for a score was done without his left shoe for the final 30 yards on the run. Rookie WR Santonio Holmes also had a career game with 91 yards on five receptions and WR Nate Washington had his second straight solid game with 79 yards and a score. TE Heath Miller caught the other touchdown for Pittsburgh.
It was the running game, however, that sputtered for the Steelers. Willie Parker ran hard, but had little room to work with. He had 20 carries but gained just 47 yards with a long of 16. The Steelers had 55 rushing yards and averaged 2.1 yards per carry.
The Steelers continued to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers, fumbling four times, losing three of them, all resulting in Atlanta touchdowns. They were also fooled on an onside kick in the second quarter, which also ended up a Falcons touchdown.
The hits kept on coming, primarily on defense. Already without LB Joey Porter and limited play from CB Deshea Townsend, both because of hamstring injuries, the Steelers lost NT Casey Hampton at halftime with his own hamstring injury. LB Clark Haggans battled a toe injury throughout the game and WR Cedrick Wilson missed portions of the game after suffering a leg injury.
The knock on Michael Vick has been that he cannot win a game on his own and that without TE Alge Crumpler, he would be even less of a threat at QB. Well he certainly proved the first part wrong. As for the second part, Vick just proved that maybe all he needs is Crumpler. The two hooked up for three touchdowns and Vick had a career high four TD passes. He was 18 of 30 for 232 yards and added 40 yards on the ground, but he did not rely on his legs unless it was necessary.
Crumpler was king of the hill as he wrestled his way to three touchdowns and 117 receiving yards on six receptions. He was often mismatched with smaller DBs and was targeted eight times because of it. WR Ashley Lelie woke up in the second half and had four receptions for 58 yards and WR Michael Jenkins made a clutch one-handed touchdown catch late in the second quarter.
The Falcons’ running game, leading the NFL with 232 yards per game was shut down for three quarters (42 yards), but still put up 173 yards on the ground, thanks to 87 yards in the fourth quarter and an additional 44 yards on their overtime drive. Vick had 35 of his rushing yards in that span and backup RB Jerious Norwood collected 63 of his 64 rushing yards in that time as well. Warrick Dunn struggled most of the day, but led Atlanta with 69 rushing yards on 26 carries and punched in a one yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Atlanta’s defense had only allowed two TDs through the air all season and had eight interceptions in allowing 193.1 yards per game. The unit gave up 433 yards passing to the Steelers five touchdown passes and had no picks against both first and second string QBs. They did make up for it, however, by stripping Pittsburgh of the ball twice and recovering three fumbles overall, turning all three turnovers into 21 points, all from 26 yards out or less.
What you ought to know
Roethlisberger took a helmet to helmet hit by DE Chauncey Davis in the third quarter. Despite being knocked out for a few minutes, being helped off the field by two trainers, having them briefly work in his neck and then carting him off in a woozy state to the locker room, he reappeared on the Steelers’ sidelines in the fourth quarter. According to HC Bill Cowher, Roethlisberger was aware of the situation and his surroundings. Prior to the injury, Roethlisberger was on fire, completing 16 of 22 passes for 233 yards. He threw three touchdown passes; One to a wide open Hines Ward in the slot for 11 yards, one to TE Heath Miller on a bootleg play-action for one yard and a third on a quick blitz read to WR Nate Washington, also in the slot for ten yards. Only three of his completions were for less than ten yards – including one for nine yards and Miller’s touchdown pass. Further tests and results will be available during the week on Roethlisberger who was “sore” after the game according to Cowher.
Batch, who had no problems leading Pittsburgh to its first win of the season against Miami, left little doubt that he could do it again should Roethlisberger need a week or two to recover from his head injury. Of course the Steelers did not win yesterday, but it had nothing to do with the play of Batch, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 195 yards and threw two touchdowns to WR Hines Ward. After missing on two of his first three passes, he hit Ward in stride, past double coverage, for a 70-yard catch and run touchdown pass. Right after he hit WR Nate Washington for a 49 yard gain to put the Steelers in the red zone, he found Ward again over the middle for the game tying 17 yard touchdown pass. Details on Roethlisberger’s injury and Batch’s status on the depth chart will be available as they are released by the Steelers.
Parker struggled mightily gaining just 49 yards on 20 carries. He ran as hard as he could, using every tactic he could for extra yardage; Stiff arms, spin moves, stop and goes, but a lack of OL penetration and the speed of the Falcons’ defense kept him from breaking one past his long of nine yards. Parker made one too many moves in the third quarter when he was stopped in the backfield and he tried to back up to reverse his field. But DT Jordan Babineaux was there to strip the ball loose for a loss of nine, and the Falcons recovered the ball, turning it into a go ahead touchdown. This was the first game Parker went without a reception. He did have a goal line carry for one yard, but the Steelers elected to run play action for a touchdown pass the next play.
Haynes took a draw for 11 yards and caught a screen pass for two yards. He split time with Parker on third downs, but was not targeted often due to the Falcons’ tendencies to allow down field passing.
After a big game last week, Davenport was brought in while inside the red zone in the second quarter, but saw just one carry for negative one yard.
Despite spraining his ankle last week versus Kansas City, Kreider started and finished yesterday’s contest.
Ward finally broke through and nearly doubled his entire yardage output for the season with 171 yards on eight receptions, giving him 378 yards on the year. He recorded his first of three touchdown catches with an 11 yarder in the slot and over the middle to put the Steelers in front 10-7 in the first quarter. His second touchdown was his most impressive one, as he beat double coverage down the right seam, caught the pass at midfield, lost his left shoe on Atlanta’s 30 yard line, raced down the far left sideline, broke CB DeAngelo Hall’s tackle, and then dove out of bounds with the ball just inside the front left pylon for the touchdown. Ward then tied the game, 38-38, with another catch over the middle for 17 yards with 3:19 remaining. He also caught a 25 yard strike from Batch with eight seconds left in regulation, but a false start on an attempted spike put the game in overtime due to a ten second runoff, foiling a possible game winning field goal attempt.
Holmes picked up where he left off last week, which is both good and bad. The good: Holmes improved on his receiving numbers with career highs in receptions and yards (5-91). He caught his long gain of 36 yards on a fly pattern with an over the shoulder grab and stumble to Atlanta’s ten yard line and the Steelers scored on the next play near the end of the first half. Holmes replaced number two receiver Cedrick Wilson, who left the game temporarily with a leg injury and the two split time throughout the second half. The bad: He fumbled his third punt return in two games when he was stripped on a wrap around tackle, giving the Falcons the ball on the Steelers’ 22 yard line. He ended up with 88 return yards, all on kickoffs.
Washington had another big day with 76 yards and his second touchdown in as many weeks. Washington scored on a 10 yard pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger while lined up in the slot and was the hot route off an all out Falcons’ blitz. He had inside position on DB DeAngelo Hall for the easy score. He also made a huge 49 yard reception late in the game on an under thrown pass from QB Charlie Batch. Washington leapt up over CB Jason Webster, and then dragged the defender an extra seven yards to set up Hines Ward touchdown on the next play.
Wilson made the most of his three first half receptions, but played sparingly in the second half while fighting a leg injury. Wilson caught a skinny post for 20 yards putting Pittsburgh in the red zone to set up a Jeff Reed field goal. He later caught a 16 yard bootleg pass to Atlanta’s 35 which helped set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown. Wilson also caught a pass on an in-route, put a move on CB Jason Webster, and dove to the two yard line, setting up Heath Miller’s touchdown pass. Wilson was also targeted in the end zone in the first quarter, but the pass was tipped at the line and sailed incomplete.
Morey was bumped up to the number four receiver after Wilson’s injury and caught his second career pass in eight seasons, and first since Week 12 of the 2004 season. His 14 yarder kept the Steelers’ final first half touchdown drive going in the two minute drill.
Miller caught two passes for four yards, one for a one yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, the other a three yard dump for a first down.
Tuman slipped away from the line and caught a dump pass which he took up field for 21 yards.
Reed hit a first quarter field goal and converted all five extra point attempts. He was set up for a 51 yard game winning field goal, but the Steelers were called offside and the game ended with a ten second runoff. Reed was also flagged for tripping near the end of the first half.
The front seven shut down Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick on the ground for the first three quarters, giving up only 42 rushing yards. The fourth quarter and overtime, however saw the Falcons churn their way forward for 131 yards. Vick and backup Jerious Norwood ran for a combined for 98 of those yards and the line broke down in overtime allowing the Falcons to get into easy field goal range. LB James Farrior led all tacklers with eight and had an interception.
While the Steelers’ offense gave the Falcons a short field three times inside 26 yards, the Steelers’ secondary could not prevent the touchdown on either occasion, nor could they when Atlanta recovered an onside kick, putting them at mid field. Alge Crumpler ran wild over the smaller Pittsburgh DBs for 117 yards and three scores. Troy Polamalu had an interception and Ryan Clark had seven solo tackles. Reserve S Tyrone Carter had Pittsburgh’s only sack.
|QB Michael Vick, Pass: 18 - 30 - 232 - 4 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 5 - 40 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)|
Vick threw for a career high four touchdown passes, taking full advantage of four shortened field possessions and engineered long drives of 70 and 75 yards for ten points in the second half. He hit TE Alge Crumpler three times in the end zone, twice on single coverage over the middle against smaller CBs. He also lofted up a pretty pass in the back of the end zone where only WR Michael Jenkins could have a chance at catching it, and he did with one hand for a touchdown. Vick made some incredible throws including two passes across the field after rollouts in the opposite direction, the second of which resulted in Crumpler’s third touchdown catch for 31 yards. Vick relied on his arm much more than he did his legs, although it was his scrambling abilities that sparked the Falcons late in the game when he had runs of 14, 14 in the fourth quarter and got rid of a shovel pass to RB Justin Griffith while getting sacked. Vick made his best read in overtime when he avoided a sack, rolled out, waited for the pass coverage to anticipate him taking off, and floated a pass to Crumpler for a 26 yard catch and run, putting the Falcons in field goal range. As if that wasn’t enough, Vick also caught a pass tipped back to him at the line and ran for a one yard gain. Vick was by far a leader/QB first and a play-maker second in this Georgia Dome shootout.
Dunn got lost in all of the Falcons’ numbers, but the cagey veteran came through with some tough yards on Atlanta’s overtime drive. Dunn was quiet most of the day as he was getting hit at the line on nearly every carry. Dunn scored from one yard out mid way through the third quarter to give Atlanta a 28-24 lead, but saved his best for last when he had 19 yards in their overtime drive, including a nine yarder for a first down that put Atlanta on Pittsburgh’s 18 yard line, and another four yard run for good measure, setting up Morten Anderson’s game winning 32 yard field goal. Dunn, who mildly complained about not getting any passes out of the backfield earlier this week, did not have a reception.
Norwood only had one carry for one yard in the first half, but was unleashed in the fourth quarter and gained 63 yards on his next seven carries. He had a long of 36 yards, when he bounced off the line and down the right sideline into Pittsburgh territory to help set up a Morten Anderson field goal. He also led off the overtime drive with three carries for 18 yards. Norwood caught one ball for 5 yards.
Griffith caught two passes for 16 yards with a long of 16 when he alertly snatched a Michael Vick shovel pass while nearly in the grasp.
Lelie caught two consecutive passes for 13 and 11 yards to help set up the Michael Jenkins’ touchdown late in the second quarter. He later caught a roll out pass from Vick, who threw it across midfield to Lelie for 28 yards, which helped set up Alge Crumpler’s third touchdown.
White was the target of a few deep balls early in the game, but he couldn’t connect on any of them, settling for just two catches for ten yards.
Jenkins only caught two passes, but had by far the best catch of the day when he hauled in a rainbow pass from Michael Vick in the back of the end zone. With CB Deshea Townsend interfering with him, Jenkins fought off Townsend with right hand and corralled the pass with his left while falling on his left shoulder for the 17 yard touchdown at the two minute mark of the second quarter.
If it weren’t for Michael Vick, Crumpler would have been the player of the game. He was often mismatched with smaller DBs and had no reservations about running them over, or dragging them into the end zone, which he managed to do three times. His 117 yards are one yard shy of his personal best when he had 118 in Week 10 of the 2004 season. He had long gains of 22 yards (his first touchdown), 23, 26 and 31 (his third touchdown). His second score went for three yards in traffic with three defenders on him.
The 46 year old Anderson hit the game winning field goal from 32 yards out in overtime for the 41-38 victory. He had just recently missed a 51 yard attempt near the end of regulation, but it fell just short by about three or four yards. Anderson also made a 25 yard field goal and converted all five extra points.
The Falcons took away Pittsburgh’s strength by allowing just 55 rushing yards at 2.1 yards per carry. Willie Parker could only manage 49 yards on 20 carries and the Steelers were forced to pass much of the game. Jordan Babineaux caught Parker in retreat mode nine yards behind the line of scrimmage, stripped the ball loose and recovered his own forced fumble in the third quarter, which resulted in Atlanta’s fourth TD of the game.
The lone dark spot in an overall great win for the Falcons came against the pass. Whether it was Ben Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch, Atlanta gave up an alarming 433 yards through the air and five touchdown passes, after previously only giving up two all season. CB Jason Webster had a game high nine tackles and a forced fumble and Babineaux had a sack.