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Falcons come up short in OT


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There wasn't anything Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton could do about it except cringe.

He crashed the middle when Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall slipped over the left side of his defense, and watched helplessly as Mendenhall rumbled down the sidelines for a 50-yard touchdown run to defeat Atlanta 15-9 in overtime on Sunday at Heinz Field.

"It was horrible," Lofton said. "Just horrible."

The Falcons' revamped defense, with five new starters, kept the Steelers out of the end zone until the overtime run. They came up with a turnover, stops on third down and even three sacks to put the team in position to win. It wasn't enough.

"To let them have a big play like that at the end, just makes you sick to your stomach," said Lofton, who led the Falcons with 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses.

The Atlanta offense wasn't much help. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan tossed a late interception and Michael Turner and the running attack were bottled up by the Steelers.

And when the offense moved into position to win, the Falcons went for a tying field goal. NFL jerseys

Trailing 9-6, they finally sustained a drive. They moved to the Steelers' 5-yard line. On a fourth-and-1 situation, the Falcons, offering themselves as a power football team, appeared ready to prove it.

Turner, who finished with a modest 42 yards on 19 carries, was poised for a big run.

"I was getting myself pumped up," Turner said. "If we would have got that, we probably would have finished the game off. But coach changed his mind."

The clock went down to 12 seconds, and the play still hadn't been sent out. The people in the huddle wanted to run it.

"Just go ahead and show the confidence that you have in the offense," Turner said. "We were rolling. Everything was going well for us. I felt confident that we would have got one yard."

The Falcons elected to send out Matt Bryant, who made a 23-yard field goal to tie the game with 3:28 to play.

After the game, Falcons coach Mike Smith insisted he made the right decision.

"I felt in that situation right there, we had to tie the game," Smith said. "We felt there was enough time to get a stop, which we did, and get the ball back to the offense."

Yet when the Falcons regained possession, Ryan, who finished with a 67.6 quarterback rating, was intercepted by Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu.

"I felt like I had enough of a window to get the ball outside," Ryan said. "I thought I made a pretty good throw. But against him, you have to be perfect." wholesale nfl jerseys

The Atlanta defense stopped the Steelers, who went with third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon. With 39 seconds left, the Falcons ran one play and let the play clock run out.

The Falcons won the overtime coin toss, but couldn't move the ball. After a punt, the Steelers had the ball at the 50 when Mendenhall went on his mad touchdown dash.

The play will be thoroughly examined as the Falcons try to regroup.

"We have got to make sure that we go back and evaluate everything that we are doing and make sure that we make the corrections," Smith said.

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