Written by Brian Pohl
Pittsburgh, PA- The Atlanta Falcons were unable to keep up with a strong second-half push by the high-powered Pittsburgh Steelers offense in 41-17 loss.
Another disappointing loss early in the season for the Falcons has them sitting at 1-4 on the season as they have been unable to overcome the mounting injuries on the defensive side of the ball.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke about the loss saying, “Truth is the second half clearly we missed the standard that we uphold for one another today. Coming in at the half it was 13-10 and we had our thoughts and chances on how it would go in the second half. We completely missed our mark.”
In what has been the bright side of the Falcons team this season, the offense was unable to execute during big moments, only gaining 324-yards of total offense with 17-points to show for it.
The passing game moved effectively at times, with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan completing 26 of his 38 passes for 285-yards and a long 43-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu, but it was the running game that really struggled.
Returning starting running back Devonta Freeman was the most effective, gaining 32-yards on eight rushes, but as a unit, the backfield for the Falcons only averaged 3.3 yards per carry and was not able to create enough balance for the offense to hang with the Steelers.
On defense, the Falcons were able to keep it close in the first half, only allowing 13 points and going into the locker room trailing Pittsburgh by three, but a strong second-half push pulled the Steelers way out in front and Atlanta was unable to recover.
Allowing 381-yards of total offense and 41-points, the battered Falcons defense has been unable to overcome the injuries in their secondary, and it showed against the Steelers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger completed 19 of his 29 passes for 250-yards with three touchdowns and one interception and was able to convert two big third downs with his legs late that sealed the game.
Big Ben’s favorite target was star receiver Antonio Brown, who torched the Atlanta secondary for six receptions and 110-yards including two touchdowns, one of which going for 47-yards. Juju Smith-Schuster, who is having a breakout season for Pittsburgh, added four receptions for 34-yard and a score continuing his strong start to the season.
The big story of the game was Steelers running back James Conner, who has filled in greatly in the absence of star back Le’Veon Bell. The second-year back out of the University of Pittsburgh rushed 21 times for 110-yards and two rushing scores, while also catching four passes for 75-yards. Conner gashed the Falcons defense from the start of the game, taking almost every play on the opening drive and capping it off with a score to give Pittsburgh an early 6-0 advantage.
The mounting injuries have been too much for the Falcons to overcome, but coach Quinn continues to believe in his players and saying as much in his post-game press conference.
Coach Quinn on believing in his players, “I am, and I recognize the question of if we have enough firepower with some of the injuries there. I do, and in some cases, there’s some on the job training and we expect that. But, by no stretch is our entire team decimated and by no stretch are the guys we have playing not up and capable for the job. I stand by who we are and the talent that we have to play well. We missed it this afternoon in the second half especially.”
This loss hurts for the Falcons, who have now entered the dangerous territory early in the season where every week may be a must-win game. It’s looking more and more like Atlanta will be unable to achieve the high expectations that the fan base, and the Falcons themselves, had for this season, but coach Quinn continues to show his belief in his players and assures that his team will work harder than ever to correct their season.