Another disappointing first half doomed the Atlanta Falcons early on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. With the loss, the Falcons drop to 1-3 and the bottom of the NFC South.
Coming into this back, being back at home, the Atlanta Falcons were favorites to beat the AFC South opposition, Tennessee Titans, after a loss that saw the Falcons build a lot of momentum in the second half. Unfortunately, the Falcons did not capitalize on that momentum and had a very slow first half, similar to the other two losses from this season. With the loss, the Falcons fall to 1-3 with a tough road game against Houston on the road next week. The Falcons will have to be careful to not let this season slip away in the first five games.
The game started with the Falcons deferring the ball to the second half. After seeing the struggles on offense the Titans have had in their last two games, Dan Quinn was confident in stopping the Titans offense.
That thinking paid off when the Falcons forced the Titans to punt the ball after getting one first down to open the game. With the ball back after a good defensive stand, the Falcons offense wasn’t able to do anything against the Titans offense, going three-and-out.
With their second offensive position, the Titans drew first blood. Marcus Mariota hit the rookie receiver, A.J. Brown, on a short slant that would go 55 yards to score the first touchdown of the day. Desmond Trufant, who was covering Brown, took a terrible angle, losing his guy and allowing a touchdown. It was an all-around ugly play for the defense.
Down 7-0, the Falcons were ready to strike back. The first positive play of the day for the Falcons offense was an offensive PI play that would advance the Falcons 32 yards down the field. This was a bad omen of things to come for the Falcons offense. Ryan would go on to hit Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu to reach the red zone. Ito Smith would take the ball to the one-yard line then finish the job on the next play, making the score 7-7.
The Titans next drive is when things would start to get out of whack for the Falcons defense. After getting the Titans to a 3rd and 10, the Titans would move back five more yards with a false start penalty. On 3rd and 15, Mariota would hook up with Corey Davis on a short slant for 17 yards and the first down.
The drive was kept alive by a Mariota scramble and a pair of Tyler Davidson penalties. Once again, defensive penalties were a major problem for the Falcons in this game. Mariota would go on to finish the drive by hooking up with Brown in the end zone again to make it 14-7.
The Falcons offense was doing it’s best to keep up with the Titans offense in the first quarter. Matt Ryan was leading the team up the field at the close of the first quarter before he got sacked, fumbling the ball in the process. The Titans would go on to recover the ball to close out the first quarter.
After stopping the Titans after the fumble recovery, forcing a punt, the Falcons offense would continue to struggle, going three-and-out. The Titans would keep moving the ball to eventually kick a field goal to make the game 17-7.
The Falcons would mount a small drive when the team stalled out around midfield but within field goal range. Instead of kicking the field goal, Quinn elected to go for it on 4th and 1. Devonta Freeman would get stuffed at the line, turning over the ball back to the Titans.
On the Titans final drive of the first half, Mariota would throw his third touchdown of the day to Corey Davis to make the score 24-7. Coming into this game, the Titans had one of the worst offenses in all of the NFL. The Falcons defense made them look unstoppable in the first half.
In the Falcons final drive of the first half, with all three timeouts remaining, Ryan led a solid drive that took the Falcons past midfield, into field goal range. Quinn declining to use his timeouts, let the Falcons stay in the hurry-up before the drive stalled out in the red zone. Matt Bryant was brought on the hit the 32-yard field goal but would miss ending the first half.
The Falcons started the second half with the ball. After a successful drive, it seemed like the Falcons could build some momentum. In the midst of the drive, Austin Hooper was called for holding taking the Falcons back to a 1st and 20, killing all momentum the drive had. Matt Bryant, redeeming himself, would hit a field goal to salvage some points making the score 24-10.
The Titans offense would go on to stall for much of the second half but with the lead, they built in the first half, it didn’t matter. The Titans ran the ball well and continued to move the ball up and down the field, killing clock the whole time. Marcus Mariota looked like an All-Pro quarterback today, something he is not.
After giving up the field goal on the opening drive of the second half, the Titans defense did a great job of hampering the Atlanta offense. Matt Ryan would go on to throw the ball 53 times in this game, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Titans did a great job of keeping the pressure and hitting Ryan all day.
Devonta Freeman had a terrible day. With 12 carries, he gained only 28 yards. Ito Smith, the only player to score a touchdown today, only carried the ball twice for 11 yards. Freeman continues to struggle while Smith looks like a real difference-maker. Koetter will need to make a change sooner than later when it comes to the running game.
The Falcons would go on to lose the game 24-10. An ugly home loss to a team that was very capable of being beat. Instead, the Falcons fall to 1-3 while division rivals, Carolina and Tampa Bay, win today placing the Falcons at the bottom of the NFC South.