Steelers Halt Falcons Late: 3 Things We Learned
Ben Roethlisberger came up big again for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers defense came up big as well, stopping another fourth quarter comeback with the same result for Atlanta as last week – another loss and a potential nail in the coffin of the team’s playoff hopes and the possible future of head coach Mike Smith.
The 27-20 loss also opened the door for the New Orleans Saints to take over the NFC South with a win on Monday night. The Saints travel to Chicago to face the Bears.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan was 26-of-37 for 310 yards, 2 TD and an Int Sunday, playing without top wideout Julio Jones (inactive with a hip injury). Ryan leaned heavily on Harry Douglas, whose 10 catches on 14 targets were both 2nd-highest in his career.
Here are three things we learned from Sunday’s game.
BEN DID IT AGAIN
Ben Roethlisberger was 10-for-10 for 123 yards targeting Antonio Brown, the 3rd game of Brown's career with a perfect catch percentage on at least 10 targets. Roethlisberger was 3-for-3 for 61 yards targeting Brown on throws at least 15 yards downfield, tying Brown's career high with 3 catches without an incompletion on deep throws.
Roethlisberger was 12-of-14 for 191 yards against at least 5 pass rushers, converting 1st downs on 8 of his 15 drop backs (1 sack). The Falcons blitzed at their 3rd-highest percentage in a game this season, and the results didn't justify the approach.
He was also 8-for-8 for 120 yards against the Falcons blitz in the 1st half.
POOR GAME MANAGEMENT
According to the game summary on ESPN.com, Ryan threw for 310 yards, completing 26 of 37 even though he didn't have his top receiver. Julio Jones sat out with a hip injury sustained in the closing minutes of a 259-yard performance against Green Bay.
Early on, Ryan looked out of sync, most noticeably on a pass over the middle intended for Harry Douglas. Gay stepped in to grab it -- and kept right on running until he reached the end zone.
The Steelers were up 20-7 at the half, but Atlanta put together a pair of impressive drives in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn't get to the end zone, settling for short field goals by Matt Bryant.
After Ryan's touchdown pass to White with 10:21 remaining, Atlanta got the ball only one more time. The Falcons went three-and-out, and the Steelers ran out the clock.
The Steelers were held to 45 yards rushing, their second-lowest total this season. ... Le’Veon Bell pushed his total yards for the season to 2,043, eclipsing Barry Foster's team record of 2,034. ... Falcons cornerback Josh Wilson went out with a hand injury while covering a kickoff. ... Ryan was Atlanta's second-leading rusher with 27 yards on three carries. ... Getting more time at receiver with Jones out, Devin Hester had 85 yards on five catches, including a 17-yarder for Atlanta's first touchdown.