Atlanta Falcons beat Tennessee Titans: Five quick takes
The first preseason game is in the books, and it was a good one for the Atlanta Falcons as they downed the Tennessee Titans 31-24. More important than the result was the performance from the starters.
We finally got a taste of what Dan Quinn’s Falcons will look like when the regular season kicks off on September 14, and there is plenty of reason to get excited. Here are my five quick takes from the game.
Starting offense looked in mid-season form
It didn’t take long for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to hit their stride. Ryan marched the Falcons down the field on a ten-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, going 6 for 6 for 86 yards and a score. Four of his completions were to Jones, who put up 61 receiving yards including a 13-yard touchdown.
That was all we saw from the two, but it was nice to see them already playing at a high level. Yes it was against the Titans defense in an exhibition game, but Jones was getting open at will and made it look easy.
Offense will be the Falcons’ calling card again in 2015, so it’s good to see them get off to a good start ahead of the new campaign.
First impressions were good on defense
The new-look defense certainly played fast and physical and made a strong first impression. Atlanta generated good interior pressure and made life miserable for Marcus Mariota in his first taste of NFL action.
Just four plays after completing his first pass to former Falcon Harry Douglas, Mariota was pressured by Paul Soliai and then sacked by Tyson Jackson for a loss of 11 yards. The very next play, he was picked off by Falcons free agent acquisition Justin Durant on an attempted screen pass.
MORE RECAP FROM FALCONS-TITANS
- Falcons winners and losers after victory
- Antone Smith suffers hamstring injury after scoring TD
- Watch: Julio Jones opens scoring with 13-yard TD
It got even worse for Mariota on the Titans’ next drive. Again Atlanta pressured well inside and Jonathan Babineaux appeared to strip the ball out the rookie’s hands, leaving Paul Worrilow to scoop it up and run into the end zone.
Desmond Trufant and Brooks Reed missed the game through injury, but the starters made a good start without them.
Vic Beasley pumped up
The Falcons’ eighth overall pick didn’t take long to make an impression in his first NFL game. His lightning burst off the snap was evident right away, although it cost him a penalty for jumping offside. He made up for that as it was his pressure on Mariota that led to the interception by Durant.
Overall, it was a good showing by the rookie. He played well on the field and importantly didn’t suffer an injury.
Run game struggled, too early to judge
The only thing lacking from the Falcons’ dominant opening possession was a good contribution from the run game. Terron Ward and Antone Smith carried the football twice each on the drive but combined for just five yards. At the end of the game, the numbers weren’t particularly promising either.
Jerome Smith: 7 carries for 25 yards (3.6 average)
Michael Ford: 11 carries for 20 yards and 1 TD (1.8 average)
Antone Smith: 9 carries for 18 yards and 1 TD (2.0 average)
Terron Ward: 3 carries for 6 yards (2.0 average)
Nobody really stood out, and the run game didn’t look comfortable until the reserves were on late in the game. This is a concern for Atlanta, but also not time to panic.
Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are currently nursing hamstring injuries and didn’t feature in this game. Antone Smith is listed as the third-string back, and he went down with a hamstring problem of his own after scoring.
We can only make judgements on the run game when Coleman and Freeman are on the field getting time in Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. For now, we wait.
Justin Hardy made a nice start
Fourth round pick Justin Hardy was the Falcons’ second best receiver statistically behind Jones, making three receptions for 41 yards including one 22-yard gain.
Hardy ran sharp routes and added some yards after the catch. It’s going to be interesting to see how he operates in the slot with Matt Ryan throwing the football his way.
His one mistake came as he couldn’t haul in a pass from T.J. Yates and it tipped into the hands of Coty Sensabaugh. All in all though, it was a good start.
So far, so good for Dan Quinn. It’s only a preseason game, but the team looks headed in the right direction on both sides of the football. Stay tuned to Blogging Dirty as we continue to recap this game and look ahead to the second preseason contest against the New York Jets next Friday.
Next: Falcons beat Titans: Winners and losers from preseason game