Winning ugly is better than not winning at all. I guess that’s what the Falcons’ camp was thinking after sneaking out of Nashville after beating the Titans 10-7 who were without their starting quarterback Sunday.
The Falcons traveled 270 miles northwest up Interstate 24 to face the shorthanded Titans who were without their quarterback, the number two overall pick in the draft Marcus Mariota. And despite being shorthanded, the Titans remained in the game and held the lead until the midway point of third quarter. And the outcome was still uncertain until Titans backup Zach Mettenerger was intercepted late to secure the win for the now 6-1 Falcons.
Ironically, the Falcons were able to more the ball as they did against the Saints last week but turnovers quashed any chance of scoring. Devonta Freeman once again rushed for over 100 yards for the third week in a row but was unable to find the end zone for the first time since he took over as the starting back. Even Julio Jones finally looked to get back on track after being hobbled by nagging injuries to catch nine passes for 92 yards and Atlanta’s lone touchdown. Roddy White even had some nice catches as well.
Turnovers, however has become the Falcons’ Achilles. Matt Ryan for the third week in a row was a turnover machine with two interceptions once again. Over the past three weeks he’s turned the ball over seven times. Very uncharacteristic for Ryan.
The Falcons as well as their fans were very surprised at the fight in the Titans despite being shorthanded. The Titans’ defense shutdown a very potent Falcons offense. “I think we did pretty well. You know, other than one drive where we allowed them to go down and score. You play 60 minutes and we allowed one touchdown to slip past us and it cost us the game.\,” said Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. “If we do that one thing, make that stop, we come out of the game with a win. That’s what we’ve been harping on all week. One play and making the stop. “
Despite the Titans’ defense a lot of the Falcons offensive problems have been self-inflicted via the turnover bug, dropped passes and penalties. on eliminating the penalties and turnovers. “We are disappointed with the turnovers (penalties) especially the one resulting in a long play coming back from Devonta (Freeman) so those are the ones we would like to have over,” said Falcons coach Dan Quinn. “We will have to take a look and see how many of them were pre-snap and when there was a run and we could have released on the guy earlier for a big cut back play so you have got to start off with a number of them that seem like they were on first-and-10 where it starts and goes into a first-and-20 which makes it really tough to convert”
Despite not having Mariota under center the Titans offense moved the ball well against the Falcons. With the exception of a few untimely Mettenberger the outcome might of bee different. Mettenberger looked comfortable under center and moved the ball well going almost throw for throw with his counterpart from Atlanta, avoiding the rush most of the day as he was sacked only once. “I thought at times he did a nice job in there. He was under control, he made good decisions getting the ball out. As with anything, there’s always going to be a couple that you want back. We’ll look at it and see,” said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Despite all the hype over the Tennessee defense holding its own against the likes or Ryan, Jones and Freeman not enough is being made of the play of the defense that held the Titans to 1-of-9 in third down conversions (11 percent) and timely turnovers. Atlanta bookended each half with interceptions that ended scoring drives for the Titans. “We knew it was going to be a fight coming in and we were ready to go the distance today” said Quinn. “I love the way we finished at the halves, (Paul) Worrilow and (Robenson) Therezie having one as well. Those are exactly the types of finishes we want for our defense at the end of the half. We want to close out a game and that’s what we want to stand for.”
Therezie’s game-clinching interception of Mettenberger seemed like old times for the Atlanta safety who has also intercepted the Titans QB in preseason. “We just stuck to our fundamentals. We had a zone pressure on and I was reading the quarterback,” h said. “I was just in my zone and he threw it right there. We had a little pressure on him and he had to get it out quick. I was just disciplined.”
“We are just in a funk. We have to get out of it. We have to keep battling and keep going and keep trying to get better and fix these things,” said Jones. “We had a great week of practice and we got to the game and we couldn’t sustain drives. We just have to continue to keep practicing and fix us. That is the main thing. We just have to fix us and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Falcons offense will try to correct their offensive ship Sunday as they return to the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome as they host Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
The Titans take to the road after being at home the past month as they hope to change their fortunes as they play the Houston Texans. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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