With the Falcons down 3 and 42 seconds remaining, they started a drive at their own 2-yard line. But on the first play of the possession, Fitzpatrick intercepted Marcus Mariota to preserve the lead in the Steelers 19-16 victory.
Fitzpatrick intercepted the pass at the Falcons 20-yard line and returned it 16 yards to the 4 before slowing down and voluntarily stepping out of bounds.
After the game, the 26-year-old safety joked about the decision to not try and score on Twitter.
“How many fantasy players are mad at me right now?” Fitzpatrick wrote in a Twitter post. “Sorry not sorry.”
Had Fitzpatrick returned the interception for a touchdown, which he may have been able to do, the takeaway would have been worth 8 fantasy points in standard leagues rather than just 2.
Fitzpatrick Smartly Runs Out of Bounds on Interception
Had Fitzpatrick reached the end zone with his interception return, it would have been his second defensive touchdown of the season. The score would have also made Fitzpatrick the first Steelers defender with 2 touchdowns in a season since Fitzpatrick accomplished the feat in 2019.
But with a Fitzpatrick score in that situation, the Falcons receive the ball back after a kickoff.
While they would have been down by at least 9 with under 40 seconds left and no timeouts, a Fitzpatrick touchdown actually doesn’t officially seal the victory. There’s still the possibility of an onside kick with the Falcons getting the ball back, and Atlanta kicker Younghoe Koo is quite good at onside kicks.
However, running out of bounds did essentially clinch the win. One kneel down, and the game was finished.
Although he didn’t score, the interception was Fitzpatrick’s fourth of the season. He’s only one shy of his career high 5 from the 2019 season.
Fitzpatrick has also recorded 62 combined tackles, including 1 tackle for loss, 8 pass defenses and 1 quarterback hit in 2022. Against the Falcons, he posted a team-high 7 combined tackles, including 1 tackle for loss and a pass defense.
Steelers Pass Defense Shines in Victory Against Falcons
It hasn’t been the best year for the Pittsburgh secondary. The Steelers came into Week 13 ranked inside the bottom 5 in passing yards allowed per game. They were also rated 27th in yards yielded per pass attempt (7.5) and second-to-last in passing touchdowns allowed.
But against the Falcons, the Steelers gave up just one passing touchdown and held Atlanta to 160 passing yards. The Falcons averaged 6.4 yards per pass.
Mariota finished 13 of 24 for 167 yards with a touchdown and interception.
The Falcons could very well bench Mariota before they play their next game in Week 15. So the Steelers pass defense didn’t exactly shut down an MVP candidate signal caller on December 4.
But it was improvement nonetheless, and it was enough for the Steelers to win their third contest in the last four weeks.
Thanks to that winning streak, Pittsburgh sits just two games back of the final wild card spot in the AFC.
While earning a playoff spot is unlikely, a 19th straight non-losing season is now a possibility too because of Pittsburgh’s recent surge.
The Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens next week. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson left Week 13 with an apparent knee injury and did not return.