ATLANTA (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger stood on the Pittsburgh
sideline with a white towel hanging around his neck. All he could
do was watch as Michael Vick and the Falcons finished off the
Steelers in a game that was just too good to be settled in 60
Remember this one. It could be a defining game for both teams
Vick threw a career-high four touchdown passes and hit another
long play in overtime Sunday, setting up Morten Andersen to kick a
32-yard field goal that gave Atlanta a thrilling 41-38 win that
featured enough twists and turns to last an entire season.
Where to begin? Vick responded to his critics in what had been a
dismal season throwing the ball. Roethlisberger was unstoppable
until he got knocked out with a scary blow to the head. Hines Ward
had a remarkable homecoming.
There's more. The Falcons (4-2) thought they had won in
regulation on a 56-yard field goal by their No. 2 kicker, but it
didn't count. The Super Bowl champion Steelers squandered a 17-7
lead, fumbling three times and getting surprised by an onside kick
in the first half.
The Falcons struck for touchdowns after every Pittsburgh miscue,
hanging around in a game that could have been a blowout. Finally,
after six lead changes and both teams missing chances to break a
38-38 tie in the final minute, the second-oldest player in NFL
history won it for Atlanta.
"We learned something about ourselves today," Falcons coach
Jim Mora said. "We can hang with the heavyweight champs."
The Steelers (2-4) tied it at 38 with 3:19 remaining when
fill-in quarterback Charlie Batch threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to
Ward, who grew up in the Atlanta area and longed to play for the
On this day, he burned the Falcons badly, catching eight passes
for 171 yards and a career-best three TDs, including a 70-yarder in
which he literally ran out of his right shoe.
Even that wasn't enough. Atlanta won the coin toss for overtime
and never let the Steelers have the ball. Vick converted on
third-and-9 by scrambling away from Troy Polamalu and flipping a
26-yard pass to Alge Crumpler. Five plays later, the 46-year-old
Andersen came on to make the winning kick, atoning for a 52-yarder
that fell just short in the final minute of regulation.
"Moments like this are the main reason I'm a Mike Vick fan,"
Mora said. "For all the talk about what Vick can't do, I like to
talk about what he can do. And he does things that no other player
in the history of the game at that position has the ability to
Coming off a near-perfect first half the previous week against
Kansas City, Roethlisberger was brilliant again before halftime,
going 15-of-20 for 235 yards and three touchdowns. But Big Ben was
knocked unconscious early in the third quarter on a
helmet-to-helmet hit by Chauncey Davis after letting go of a pass.
Roethlisberger remained on the turf for at least five minutes
before finally wobbling to the sideline, then got wheeled to the
locker room on the back of a cart. After changing out of his
uniform, he could only watch from the sideline.
Coach Bill Cowher said he wouldn't know for a few days if
Roethlisberger would be able to play next Sunday at Oakland.
It was another blow to the Steelers quarterback, his year
already marred by a serious motorcycle accident and an
appendectomy, and a discouraging loss for a team that seemed to get
its season back on track with a 45-7 rout of Kansas City the
"We left everything on the football field and I couldn't be
more proud of the group of guys," Cowher said. "We've dug a hole
for ourselves, no question. But I know the character of this
football team and we'll be back."
Batch did a good job in relief, throwing for 195 yards and two
TDs. But he never got a chance in overtime.
Atlanta thought it won in regulation when Michael Koenen, who
lost the kicking job after two games but still handles the punting
and long field goals, booted through a 56-yarder with 35 seconds
remaining. Cowher managed to call timeout just before the snap,
however, and the officials waved off the play.
Koenen tried again and missed, but Polamalu was called for
running into the kicker. The Falcons then sent on Andersen, whose
try was straight down the middle but fell on the end line.
There was still time for Pittsburgh to pull out a victory. Batch
delivered a 25-yard pass to Ward and the Steelers raced up to the
line to down the ball with 8 seconds to go. However, receiver Nate
Washington flinched ever so slightly before Batch took the snap and
threw the ball into the ground, a false-start penalty that
automatically led to the remaining seconds being run off the clock.
Ward slammed his helmet to the turf in disgust. The Steelers
wouldn't get the ball again.
"This game was the one I wanted the most because Atlanta passed
me up when I was coming out of college," Ward said. "This is one
I really circled on my calendar."
Vick was 18-of-30 for 232 yards, hooking up with tight end
Crumpler on touchdowns of 22, 3 and 31 yards. Crumpler tied a team
record for TD catches in a game, while Vick broke his personal mark
of three scoring passes in a game, also connecting with Michael
Jenkins on a 17-yarder.
The wild game rekindled memories of the last Atlanta-Pittsburgh
matchup, a 34-34 overtime tie in 2002.
This time, the Falcons got to celebrate.
The Atlanta defense struggled without tackle Rod Coleman
(toe) and end John Abraham (groin), who didn't dress. ...
Pittsburgh LB Joey Porter was held out because of an ailing
hamstring. ... Falcons G Kynan Forney went out for the second time
in three games with a separated shoulder.