By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/23/06
Chauncey Davis and Jonathan Babineaux got the message loud and clear.
With John Abraham (groin) and Rod Coleman (toe) out against the Steelers, the second-year players were ordered by position coach Bill Johnson to step up their games.
They came through with two of the biggest plays in the 41-38 overtime victory.
Davis broke free and put a crushing hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger early in the third quarter. Patrick Kerney and Michael Boley also got a piece of the quarterback, who was laid out on the field motionless.
"In the first half, we weren't getting as much pressure on the quarterback," Davis said. "We let him stay back there too long. Once we got back in, in the second half, we knew we just needed to turn it up on the defensive line. That's what we were doing."
On the next play, Babineaux caught up to running back Willie Parker in the backfield. He knocked the ball loose and recovered the fumble.
"I almost missed him at first, but he cut back to me," Babineaux said. "I reached out to him and the ball popped out and it fell right to me."
Four plays later, Warrick Dunn scored on a 1-yard run to make it 28-24.
"Babineaux has really played well at times this year but hasn't had the production," said Rich McKay, the Falcons' president and general manager. "He has gotten a chance to make plays, but he hasn't finished the plays. Today he did, which was nice.
"I think Chauncey has played more plays on defense than any other defensive lineman. They are getting there."
Davis may be in trouble with the league office if it's determined that he led with his helmet on the Roethlisberger hit.
"I felt it was a great hit," Davis said. "I really didn't feel that I put my helmet down or face-mask-hit him. I thought it was a great hit. I thought I got my shoulder in there and got the side of the helmet in there. We'll just have to look at it, and hopefully it wasn't a bad hit."
Davis and Babineaux were also solid in stopping the run. After getting gashed for 259 yards last week by the New York Giants, the Falcons held Pittsburgh to 55 yards on 26 carries. Parker never got loose and was held to 47 yards on 20 carries.
"We thought this team would come in and really try to pound the ball because we'd shown a weakness last week, and we had to correct it with replacement players," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "They went in and did a dandy job with that. That's really what gave us a chance in the whole game."
Davis had three tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries. Babineaux had four tackles, a sack and one quarterback hurry.
"It was just great to see those guys pick up their games to another level," Kerney said.