Welcome to the NFL Marcus Mariota. Two possessions, one interception and one fumble and a 10-0 deficit. The Heisman Trophy winner and number two overall pick by the Tennessee Titans has a rough introduction to league play Friday night.
Mariota got his act together quickly however, as he led the Titans 90 yards on their next drive including hitting former Falcon slot receiver Harry Douglas for two 17-yard completions as he ran a similar spread set he was used to at Oregon. The Titans pulled within three on a Dexter McCluster six-yard plunge. On the Titans’ rookie final drive he completed 7-of-8 passes for 94 yards.
About midway through the first quarter the Atlanta Falcon offense final received their first kickoff of the 2015 season and things looked exactly the same for Matt Ryan and company as they always have. Ryan was a perfect 6-of-6 connecting with his favorite target Julio Jones four times including a 13 yard scoring pass.
The Falcons continued to steamroll ahead to a 24-7 lead before the wheels started to fall off.
Yep, lack of depth in the reserves has always reared its ugly face through the Mike Smith era and showed once again Friday. Granted, Tennessee’s offensive reserves are much better than Atlanta’s, especially at quarterback. Zach Mettenberger could be a starter elsewhere and if Mariota slips up they already have their go-to guy. Charlie Whitehurst has been a spot starter in both San Diego and the Titans since coming into the league.
However on the good, the Atlanta defense has looked more aggressive than in years past. New coach Dan Quinn is to credit for that. For what it is worth the defense played with a lot more enthusiasm however some results remained the same. Atlanta did pull of the win which they rarely did in preseason under the previous regime but the defense made the Titan passing game look pretty impressive at times. For the entire game only four Titan passes fell incomplete as the visitors out-gained the Falcons by about 50 yards rolling up almost 400 yards of offense.
The defense did come up with its fair share of turnovers – mainly the first string as they intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. The secondary did come up with some key breakups ending serious drives by the Titans.
Sean Rentfree looked slightly sharper than second string QB T.J. Yates as he was near flawless as he led Atlanta down late on the winning drive. He went 6-of-7 for 68 yards and finished the drive with a one yard plunge by Michael Ford with 7:35 to play.
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