First tie in five years has a bit of everything

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.

Hines Ward had 11 catches for 139 yards and a score.
Hines Ward had 11 catches for 139 yards and a score.

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.

Allen's Analysis

Eric Allen

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


"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.