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First tie in five years has a bit of everything

11/11/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- No Pittsburgh quarterback ever played a better
game than Tommy Maddox did Sunday. And no Atlanta quarterback ever
played a better fourth quarter that Michael Vick.

Neither team knew how to react to a game so exciting, so
stirring, so dramatic -- and in the end, one that felt so empty.

Vick rallied Atlanta from 17 points down in the fourth quarter,
and the Falcons withstood Maddox's franchise-record 473 yards
passing to tie Pittsburgh 34-34 Sunday. It was the NFL's first tie
in five years, and only the 16th in league history.

The Steelers, traditionally a blue-collar team that wins with
defense and the running game, piled up a Rams-like 645 yards as
Maddox and receiver Plaxico Burress each set club yardage records,
yet still couldn't help their team win.

Question on the Falcons: Other than Marino, can you recall such a young quarterback having such an impact?
The past few years there have been some impressive young QBs. Last year, Tom Brady won a Super Bowl, and three seasons ago Kurt Warner won one in his first season as a starter. Yes, Michael Vick has been impressive and exciting, but we're only in Week 10. Before we compare him to Marino and others, we need to find out how Vick plays as the season counts down and the playoff pressure escalates.

Question on the Steelers: Has Zereoue done enough to keep Bettis on the sidelines?
Yes. Amos Zereoue provides great speed and is strong enough to run between the tackles. Jerome Bettis is getting older, so the coaches need to pick and choose his spots more. There comes a time in most careers when you need to accept a lesser role for the sake of the team. This might be it for Bettis.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"I can't believe it. For us to do the things we did -- I mean,
Tommy almost threw for 500 yards -- and to fall short, it's
unbelievable,'' wide receiver Hines Ward said.

Maddox was 28-of-41 and easily broke Bobby Layne's 1958 team
record of 409 yards. Burress made nine catches for 253 yards and
two touchdowns, but Pittsburgh couldn't hold a 34-17 lead.

Maddox's career game came in only his sixth start for the
Steelers, and it happened against the coach who drafted him,
Atlanta's Dan Reeves. Maddox was selected by Denver and went to the
Giants when Reeves coached there, but Maddox's career faded until
this season.

"They talk about how a tie is like kissing your sister?'' said
Maddox, who went 10 years without starting before this season.
"Well, I love him to death, but I still wanted to beat him. Man, I
wanted that game.''

Even after Pittsburgh's Todd Peterson and Atlanta's Jay Feely
had overtime field goal attempts blocked, the Steelers nearly won.
With only 1 second on the clock, Maddox lofted a 50-yard pass that
Burress caught at the Falcons 1-yard line. Half of Burress' body
was in the end zone but the ball wasn't, and the Steelers didn't
have enough time to run another play.

"We didn't win but, we didn't lose,'' Burress said. "It's so
disappointing. You have this uneasy feeling that you lost, but you
know you really didn't.''

It was the NFL's first tie since the Giants and Redskins played
to a 7-all stalemate on Nov. 23, 1997. Since the NFL implemented
overtime in 1974, there have been 332 games go the extra period,
but only 16 of those ended without either team scoring.

Pittsburgh's last tie was 35-all against Denver with Joe Gilliam
at quarterback in 1974, the first NFL overtime game. Atlanta hadn't
tied since a 10-all deadlock with the 49ers in 1986.

Both teams remained unbeaten in their last five games and are
5-3-1.

"That's too much football,'' Falcons defensive back Ashley
Ambrose said. "When you get through, you're not sure if you're
happy or not. It's an empty kind of feeling, because you had an
opportunity and a chance to win.''

Vick -- perhaps the fastest quarterback in NFL history -- pulled
off the comeback despite being forced into being one-dimensional.
The Steelers' ever-changing blitzes limited him to 52 yards
rushing, but one of his few successful scrambles was an 11-yard
touchdown on a broken play in the final minute of regulation that
sent the game to overtime.

Despite the constant pressure, Vick dodged and weaved his way to
a 294-yard passing day, going 24-of-46 -- all while being sacked
four times and being called twice for intentional grounding.

"I felt like they could only contain us for so long, and we
would find a way to make some plays,'' Vick said. "It speaks for
how we stick together, how we made some plays in key situations.''

The comeback started after Maddox's fourth scoring pass, an
18-yarder to Jerame Tuman, and Peterson's 34-yard field goal put
Pittsburgh up 34-17 with 12 1/2 minutes to play.

Antwaan Randle El's fumbled punt led to fullback Bob Christian's
1-yard touchdown run, and a stalled Steelers drive allowed Feely to
kick a 40-yard field goal with 2:26 left.

Once more, Pittsburgh's offense couldn't get enough first downs
to run out the clock, and Vick hit Shawn Jefferson for 20 yards,
leading to his tying TD run. Jefferson had earlier made a 43-yard
touchdown catch.

"If you didn't enjoy watching him, something's wrong
with you,'' Reeves said of Vick. "If there were any doubters in
him, they saw him bring us from 17 down. Because of him, we don't
think we're ever out of game.''

Pittsburgh had the best chance to win it in overtime, but
receiver Brian Finneran got his hand on Peterson's 48-yard attempt
to block it on the Steelers' first OT possession. It was the first
time Finneran ever played on special teams in the NFL.

Six weeks ago, the Steelers overcame a blocked Peterson overtime
field goal to beat Cleveland 19-16 after Maddox came off the bench
to replace Kordell Stewart, but they couldn't do it this time.

Game notes
Pittsburgh's 645 yards were 38 short of the team record of
683, against the Chicago Cardinals in 1958. ... Atlanta's greatest
comeback was 21 points, from a 21-0 deficit to a 47-41 overtime
victory over Green Bay in 1983. ... Burress' yardage surpassed
Buddy Dial's team-record 235 against Cleveland in 1961. ... Amos
Zereoue gained 123 yards on 37 carries, the second-most in Steelers
history, behind Franco Harris' 41 in 1976.