The 2010 season opener for the Atlanta Falcons was against the Pittsburgh Steelers sans Ben Roethlisberger. Up in Pennsylvania, and televised by Fox, the Steelers were on offense first. Dennis Dixon was the quarterback. Jeff Reed tried and made a fifty-two-yard field goal at the end of the Steelers’ first possession. Pittsburgh 3 and Atlanta 0. The Falcons’ turn suggested they were jittery. Understandably? Ca depend. A Steelers offense minus Roethlisberger may give the Falcons’ defense more room to exhale, but the Falcons’ offense must meet the Steelers’ defense.
By the the top of the the second quarter, it should’ve been clear to the Falcons offense that running plays were counter-productive. Matt Ryan performed better when he threw the ball…and when he had time to pick an open receiver. Not all of his passes were complete (or close to complete), nonetheless, a flying football still covered more field than a cradled one. Just when I thought I’d have to wait until the second half to see a Falcons rise on momentum, outside linebacker Mike Peterson intercepted Dennis Dixon’s pass meant for tight end Heath Miller. No touchdown and no field goal (there was an attempt for the FG but it went wide right). The first half drummed to the pit with a fifty-five yard field goal try by Jeff Reed. Falcons head coach Mike Smith called a time-out with twenty-two seconds left. The ball bounced off the right upright and back onto the field. Matt Bryant went back on for a forty-nine-yard FG attempt. The Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin called a timeout too (by leaning every so slightly onto his right hip and saying “time-out” to the official). Bryant’s kick was good. Pittsburgh 3 and Atlanta 3.
Of course, a good football team wouldn’t shy away from running plays just because half a dozen of them do not produce points. A good football team would probably take a pause from it and then try again. The Falcons kept at it. Four minutes into the third quarter, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez made his one thousandth reception. Matt Bryant’s third trek to the field resulted in a thirty-nine-yard FG. Jeff Reed then tied the score with a thirty-six-yard FG. Atlanta 6 and Pittsburgh 6.
When the fourth quarter started, I flipped over to the Bengals-Patriots game. New England 31 and Cincinnati 17. Meanwhile, Atlanta and Pittsburgh were still tied…and Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was performing impeccably. Reed broke the tie with a thirty-four-yard FG at the end of that possession. With under four minutes left on the clock, Matt Bryant’s thirty-three-yard FG re-tied the game. Pittsburgh 9 and Atlanta 9. Hope and good chances for the Falcons to get a TD or an FG were quashed as safety Troy Polamalu intercepted Matt Ryan. Forty-three seconds remained on the clock as Jeff Reed’s FG attempt was wide right. So, the Falcons would have one more opportunity to win the game in over-time. Hallelujah, the Falcons won the coin toss. Unfortunately, the birds couldn’t capitalize (there were also two holding calls). Steelers running back Reshard Mendenhall ran the ball back fifty yards into the end zone. Pittsburgh 15 and Atlanta 9. Final score. This victory makes it the eighth time in a row year the Steelers won opening season games.
Observations & Miscellania:
2. Did Dennis Dixon wink at someone on the sidelines after he’d led his team’s first go on offense in the first quarter? He’s got dimples.
3. When a camera went in for a close-up of Steelers running back Isaac Redman in the middle of the second quarter, Redman was chewing on his mouth guard en route to the next position around the line of scrimmage. His mouth guard looked like a lemon wedge.
4. The commentators couldn’t get over the nonchalant way in which Mike Tomlin called a timeout in the bottom of the first quarter. It even got a slow-motion replay. The two Mikes got a split-screen juxtaposition of making that call when the telecast returned just before the third quarter began.
5. Gah! Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens and safety Erik Coleman had to go to the sidelines on account of foot/leg discomfort.
6. The Patriots eventually beat the Bengals 38 to 24. How did the Bengals do better than both the Steelers and the Falcons and going against the Patriots?!
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