Tennessee Titans 0-13-7-0 — 24
Atlanta Falcons 17-7-0-7 — 31
Welcome to the NFL, Marcus Mariota.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and new face of the Tennessee Titans made his preseason debut on Friday night to mixed reviews amidst some up-and-down play against the Atlanta Falcons. Mariota finished his night with two turnovers, both of which led to Falcons points, going 7-for-8 for 94 yards and a passer rating of 76. It wasn’t horrendous. But it wasn’t dominant either.
Meanwhile, on the winning side of things, the Falcons jumped out to an early lead thanks to a phenomenal start from stars Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. The long time quarterback-rreceivertandem almost marched down the field single-handedly on Atlanta’s opening drive, capping off the series with a 13-yard touchdown pass that left the Titans secondary searching for their collective ankles. The new-look Atlanta defense also looked good, or at least the starters did, forcing three turnovers and recording two sacks.
For a full box score on the game click here.
Michael Ford Put the Falcons Up in the Fourth Quarter
The guys fighting for their roster spots made a case for themselves midway through the fourth quarter as the Falcons took back the lead with just over seven minutes left to play after Michael Ford plowed his way into the end zone with a one-yard touchdown run. The drive actually lasted just under eight minutes in total with 16 plays for 86 yards.
Antonio Andrews Found the End Zone in the Third Quarter
Hey, remember those questions we all had about the Falcons defense during the preseason? Well, they might not be as answered as we previously thought.
Atlanta’s reserve defenders did not make anyone feel confident early in the third quarter as the Titans opened the second half by marching down the field and into the end zone with an Antonio Andrews touchdown run. Tennessee followed up by converting on the two-point attempt to cut the Falcon’s lead to just three with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
The touchdown also marked the end of Zach Mettenberger’s night. Here’s how he wrapped up the preseason opener:
The Falcons Led 24 – 13 at Halftime
Have some preseason offense, why don’t you?
Atlanta looked good on every side as the starting offense fired on all cylinders on the opening drive and the much-questioned defense forced two early turnovers. Matt Ryan finished his night a perfect 6-for-6 for 86 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones caught four of those passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
On the Titans side of things, Marcus Mariota, who had been praised for his near-perfect play during training camp, faltered slightly in his pro debut. The Heisman winner threw an interception (that led to a Falcons field goal) and fumbled the ball (that led to a Falcons touchdown) but also went 7-for-8 through the air for 94 yards. Welcome to the league, rookie.
Antone Smith Gave The Falcons a Late First Half Cushion
The Falcons running back added to his team’s lead with just under two minutes left in the second quarter, using every single inch of his body to get into the end zone. He broke the plane though and that’s all that matters.
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Atlanta though as Smith was seemingly shaken up on the play:
According to the Falcons’ twitter Smith had a a hamstring injury and was questionable to return. He’s not the first Falcons running back to deal with hamstring issues either. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were both sidelined with the same issue.
The Titans Got on the Board in the Second Quarter
After back-to-back turnovers, including a fumble that led to the Falcons second touchdown of the night, the Titans righted their offensive ship and marched directly into the end zone.
Marcus Mariota seemed to find a bit of his training camp confidence, going 5-for-5 on the drive and finding Dexter McCluster for the first Tennessee touchdown of the preseason. The Titans looked like they were debating taking the rookie out after his second turnover on as many drives but opted to keep in the game for experience. After all, when you’re trying to give the future face of your franchise some experience, it helps to keep him on the field:
Zach Mettenberger stepped in as quarterback after Mariota’s final drive of the night and immediately made his presence known. The Titans backup QB capped off a stellar drive with a 30 yard pass to Rico Richardson with 5:34 left in the first half.
Marcus Mariota Was Intercepted on His First Series
After going 2-for-2 to start the game, the No.2 overall pick was sacked and threw an interception on his first series as a pro.
Falcons defender Justin Durant picked off Mariota deep in his own zone and almost barreled into the end zone before getting tripped up by his own feet.
That was also the first interception Mariota had thrown all preseason. He’d been turnover-less during training camp.
Julio Jones & Matt Ryan Dominated From the Opening Snap
Julio Jones is good at catching the football. Matt Ryan is good at throwing the football. It’s a system that has worked well in Atlanta for years and, if this preseason opener is any indication, for years to come.
The pair combined for four passes on the opening drive, capping off the early-game match with a 13-yard touchdown play. Jones essentially made the Titans secondary look like they weren’t even there.
Seriously, check out this move. It’s like Jones is really good or something:
Who’s Not Playing
It’s preseason so there are always a few stars who stand on the sideline during the game. Here’s who not to expect on the field tonight.
Atlanta Falcons: Devin Hester, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Desmond Trufant, and Brooks Reed.
Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Massaquoi, Jason McCourty, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Sammie Hill, Clyde Gates and Delanie Walker.
Almost all of the pre-game hype for tonight’s preseason matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons has focused entirely on Marcus Mariota. This, of course, makes sense. After all, you only make your NFL debut once and Mariota has already been touted as the future face of the Titans franchise. There’s a whole lot of expectations riding on those shoulders – and that arm.
On the Falcons side of things, the spotlight is shining on the Atlanta defense. First-year head coach Dan Quinn was brought in to revamp a defensive unit that was bottom of the NFL barrel and it’ll be interesting to see what he’s been able to do before the first snap of the preseason.
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