The Atlanta Falcons overcame early first-half struggles to beat the Tennessee Titans on the road by a score of 10-7. The Falcons went down 7-3 at halftime, but managed to take the lead in the third quarter. They had multiple opportunities to extend their lead in the fourth quarter, but failed to advantage until safety Robenson Therezie’s interception with 91 seconds remaining sealed their victory.
Matt Ryan was erratic at times but finished the game with 251 yards while completing 22 of 38 passes for one touchdown and two interceptions. While the Falcons offensive line did not give up a single sack, Ryan faced steady pressure throughout much of the first half.
Devonta Freeman had another strong effort with 116 rushing yards on 25 carries. Julio Jones led the team in receiving with nine catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White (three catches, 48 yards), Nick Williams (three catches, 43 yards) and Jacob Tamme (three catches, 36 yards) all contributed as well.
Matt Bryant made a 27-yard field goal but missed a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 43.5 yards with two kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems returned one kickoff for 28 yards and a punt for 12 yards.
The Falcons generated 378 yards of total offense but struggled on third downs, converting just five of 14 tries for 36 percent. The Falcons also failed to convert either of their fourth-down attempts.
The defense held the Titans to 256 total yards, including 82 yards in the second half. In the second half, the Falcons defense also did not allow the Titans to convert any of their four third-down tries. The Titans finished converting just one of nine third-down tries.
Linebacker Justin Durant led the team with eight tackles, including one for loss. Robert Alford (six tackles), Ricardo Allen (six tackles), Vic Beasley (two tackles, one quarterback hit), Kemal Ishmael (six tackles, one tackle for loss), O’Brien Schofield (two tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits), Therezie (one interception) and Paul Worrilow (five tackles, one interception, two pass deflections) also had notable games.
The Titans received the opening kickoff and began their first possession at their 20-yard line. After Titans wide out Justin Hunter caught a four-yard out pattern on the second play from scrimmage to set up a 3rd-and-3, the Titans converted their first and last third down of the game on a quick slant to running back Dexter McCluster for four yards. On the next play, fellow back Antonio Andrews gained 17 yards on a run up the middle to get the ball into Falcons territory. Schofield then did a nice job hitting Andrews in the backfield on the next play to limit him to a one-yard gain. Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger then overthrew tight end Delanie Walker on the next play before having a miscommunication with wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, causing another pass to sail over the receiver’s head on third down. That forced the Titans’ first punt of the day with 11:32 left to go in the first quarter.
On the first offensive play by the Falcons, Freeman was nailed in the hole by linebacker Wesley Woodyard for a gain of just one yard. However a quick screen to Freeman on the next play gained six yards to set up a manageable 3rd-and-3. Jones broke a tackle after the catch on a quick out to gain 21 yards to convert the team’s first third down of the game. Two plays later Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan stuffed Tevin Coleman in the backfield for a loss of one yard to set up a 3rd-and-8. The Falcons tried a crossing route to Jones that only gained five yards, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Titans with 7:17 left in the first quarter.
Andrews then found space again up the middle, gaining 15 yards on first down. The Titans tried to dial up Walker again in the flat, but he was tackled immediately by Durant for a gain of just one yard. Beasley stopped McCluster after five yards on a draw play up the middle to set up a 3rd-and-4. Mettenberger was able to avoid pressure by stepping up in the pocket, but missed a streaking Kendall Wright, who had managed to slip past Alford on what could have been a big gain. The Titans punted for the second time in the game with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Falcons failed to respond as they went on a three-and-out. Ryan was able to avoid pressure on second down, but underthrew Jones down the field. Pressure again got to Ryan on third down and his throw to Jones was too low to force a second Falcons punt.
On the ensuing first down Mettenberger hit Hunter on a deep pass, which saw the receiver make a nice adjustment but thanks to poor concentration, he was unable to hold onto the long ball. Failing to get the big gain, the Titans were unable to convert on a checkdown to McCluster on 3rd-and-7 that gained just six yards. After a three-and-out the Titans punted it back to the Falcons with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons looked to get things going on their next drive with Freeman breaking out of traffic and gaining 19 yards on first down. Then off play-action, Ryan found an open White on a crossing pattern for 17 yards. Two plays later, Freeman did an excellent job picking his way through traffic for a 17-yard gain but it was called by due to a holding call against left guard Andy Levitre. That pushed the Falcons back to 2nd-and-17 from their 44-yard line on the final play of the first quarter. Ryan was able to avoid pressure on that play and float another pass to White along the sideline for a 15-yard gain. And additional 15-yard penalty against Morgan was tacked on for roughing the passer for tackling Ryan low from behind after the pass. But the officials correctly picked up the flag and the Falcons started the second quarter with a 3rd-and-2 in Titans territory rather than a first down. Pressure by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey on third down forced an overthrow to White, prompting the Falcons to go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Titans’ 41-yard line. The team tried a quick slant to Jones, but it was broken up by cornerback Jason McCourty, giving the Titans the ball back with 14:50 left in the second quarter with favorable field position.
Andrews carried the ball twice to start the Titans possession, converting a first down after a seven-yard gain. Mettenberger then tried a deep toss down the sideline to Wright, but it was overthrown. Two plays later on 3rd-and-7, pressure from Jonathan Babineaux forced Mettenberger to step up and the pocket and scramble for six yards. Babineaux’s pressure forced a holding call on Titans right guard Chance Warmack, pushing the Titans back to a 3rd-and-17. Mettenberger tried a simple check down to tight end Anthony Fasano, gaining six yards before Allen wrapped up him and forced another Titans punt.
Freeman was able to find space and juke his way to a first down on a gain of 10 yards on the first play of the ensuing Falcons series. Two plays later the Falcons had another first down as Ryan hit Jones on a slant for 10 yards. Ryan threw low over the middle to Jones on the next play, but the pass went through his arms for an incompletion. A defensive holding call on cornerback Coty Sensabaugh on the next play gave the Falcons a first down. Ryan then missed an open Freeman on a wheel route on the next play. On the next play, Ryan tried to throw a screen to Coleman, but defensive end David Bass was able to tip the ball to himself for an interception. The Titans took over with 8:49 left in the first half at the Falcons’ 19-yard line.
The Titans quickly capitalized as Wright snuck behind the Falcons linebackers on a crossing pattern to reel in the 19-yard scoring grab at the goalline to put the Titans on the board first with 7-0 lead with 8:42 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons got a favorable start on their next drive, beginning at their 36-yard line thanks to a 28-yard kickoff return by Weems. Freeman had a five-yard gain off the left side, but it was negated by a holding call by left tackle Jake Matthews. On 3rd-and-13 three plays later, Williams was able to find a soft spot in the coverage and reel in a 14-yard pass to get the ball to midfield. Tight end Tony Moeaki was able to snag an 11-yard gain on a slant on the next play to move into Titans territory. Freeman gained 10 yards on the next play on a run up the middle, but his next carry was smothered for a one-yard loss by Morgan. But an illegal use of hands penalty by defensive tackle Angelo Blackson wiped out the positive play for the Titans defense and gave the Falcons a new set of downs. A quick eight-yard checkdown to Freeman got the Falcons into the red zone for the first time. Freeman then gave the Falcons a new set of downs after converting on a three-yard gain on 2nd-and-2. Ryan’s next pass to Tamme was broken up by safety Daimon Stafford. A draw to Freeman then gained seven yards to put the ball at the Titans nine-yard line, setting up a 3rd-and-3. Jones was able to beat McCourty on a speed out in the end zone, but a slightly off pass from Ryan couldn’t be reeled in by the receiver before he went out of bounds. The Falcons were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Bryant to finally get on the scoreboard down 7-3 with 2:31 left in the first half.
Mettenberger hit his first two passes before the two-minute warning hit. Then he hit Wright on a 16-yard throw over the middle. Walker then made a nice catch down the seam on a 12-yard gain to get the ball into Falcons territory with 1:21 left on the clock. A deep cross to Wright on the next play went through the receiver’s hands. Beasley’s pressure got to Mettenberger on the next play, but the quarterback was still able to deliver an 11-yard completion to McCluster, who spunt out of a tackle to give the Titans a fresh set of downs before calling a timeout with 45 seconds left on the clock. Walker then made a nice leaping grab along the sideline for an 11-yard gain before being tackled by safety Kemal Ishmael at the Falcons’ six-yard line. Two plays later with 18 seconds left, pressure by Adrian Clayborn and Schofield got into the face of Mettenberger, who made an errant throw that was picked off by Worrilow. Worrilow then returned it 84 yards before finally being tracked down by Hunter at the 12-yard line with four seconds left, leaving just enough time for the Falcons to attempt another field goal. But during Worrilow’s return Schofield was flagged for a blindside hit on Titans center Andy Gallik, knocking him out of the game. The penalty was marked off at the spot of the foul, wiping off 73 of the yards Worrilow gained on the interception return. The Falcons opted to kneel down with four seconds left, content to go into halftime down 7-3.
The Falcons tried to establish the run coming out of halftime, handing the ball off to Freeman on the first two plays but for little gain. Levitre was flagged for a holding call on the first run, pushing the Falcons back 10 yards before Freeman was stuffed by Sensaugh for no gain on second down. A low snap by center Mike Person on the next play later forced a rushed and errant throw by Ryan to Tamme, causing the Falcons to have to try and convert a 3rd-and-20. Ryan simply checked it down to running back Terron Ward for a seven-yard gain, and the Falcons punted.
Hunter started off the Titans drive with a nice leaping grab for a 13-yard gain. However the Titans failed to gain much after that play, thanks to Ishmael dragging down Andrews for a one-yard loss on the next play. On second down, Schofield blasted freely up the middle on a blitz for an easy sack and a loss of eight yards. On 3rd-and-19, Mettenberger checked it down to Fasano for a seven-yard gain and the Titans punted it right back to the Falcons.
The Falcons started their next drive well with a 20-yard gain by Jones after the receiver settled into a soft spot of the Titans zone coverage. Then the Falcons got Freeman back involved as the running back first converted a 2nd-and-2 with a three-yard run before gaining a combined 23 yards on his next two carries, pushing the ball deeper into Titans territory. Then Ryan found Williams for the second time on the drive as the receiver was able to get open for a 21-yard gain on a deep cross, getting the ball down to the Titans 13-yard line. Two plays later Ryan hit Jones on a quick out and the receiver made an overmatched Morgan miss after the catch to scamper into the end zone for an eight-yard score. The Falcons took the lead 10-7 with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Titans went back to Andrews on the next drive as the running back gained 10 yards on his first carry. But Warmack was flagged for a holding call thanks to the pressure by Ra’Shede Hageman, wiping out an 11-yard gain on a Mettenberger pass to McCluster where the Titans running back spun out of a tackle by Durant. The Falcons blitzed two plays later and Mettenberger’s screen pass to running back Bishop Sankey went right through the receiver’s hands. That was followed up by another drop by McCluster, forcing a Titans punt with 2:59 left on the third-quarter clock.
The Falcons started things off well with a 47-yard run by Freeman as the runner made a brilliant jump cut into the hole and then made a safety miss. But the play was wiped out by a block in the back penalty on White, pushing the Falcons back to a 1st-and-18 at their 12-yard line. White redeemed himself somewhat with a 16-yard grab on the next play, getting much of the yardage back before Coleman converted on a 10-yard run thanks to finding some space after a cutback. Ryan then missed his next pass on an out throw to Williams. Freeman gained nine yards on a toss play, setting up a 3rd-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter. Freeman was able to convert on a two-yard run up the middle to finish off the quarter. To start the fourth quarter, Ryan was high on another out throw to Williams, which was followed by Freeman being swallowed up for no gain on 2nd-and-10. On 3rd-and-10, Ryan floated a throw to Jones, which was broken up by rookie cornerback Cody Riggs. That forced the Falcons to punt the ball with 13:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Despite a hard-fought gain of three yards by Andrews on first down, the Titans failed to take advantage on the next series with a three-and-out. Andrews was eventually stuffed for a loss of one yard on 3rd-and-1, with Tyson Jackson clogging up the running lane and Hageman and Kroy Biermann finishing the play for the tackle for loss.
After the Titans punt, the Falcons took over at their 42-yard line thanks to a 12-yard return by Weems. Ryan’s first pass to Jones over the middle was tipped by Casey for an incompletion. Tamme then snagged a pair of passes including the latter which went for 24 yards as he scooted past a Titans linebacker for the big gain. That put the ball in Titans territory where the Falcons turned to Freeman, who gained a combined five yards on his next two carries. Then on 3rd-and-5, Ryan threw up a prayer to Jones down the field, who went up and made a brilliant catch in the air for a 17-yard gain. With the ball at the Titans eight-yard line, the Falcons ran it to Freeman up the middle for a four-yard gain. Ryan then hit Jones along the sideline as the receiver made an excellent diving grab going out of bounds. It appeared that Jones was able to reach the ball over the pylon for a score before he went out of bounds, but upon the challenge initiated by Dan Quinn, it was revealed that Jones’ toe stepped out of bounds before he was able to reach the ball over. The officials marked the ball a bit closer at the six-inch line and the Falcons seemingly were in prime position to extend their three-point lead. On 3rd-and-goal, the Falcons attempted a fullback dive to Patrick DiMarco, who was stuffed in mid-air by Woodyard. On 4th-and-goal, the Falcons attempted a play-action pass but no receiver was able to get open. Ryan forced a throw to Tamme, but Marqueston Huff jumped the throw and tipped into the air. While falling to the ground, Tamme tried to reel it in but his juggling attempt to catch it allowed Titans linebacker Avery Williamson to snag the ball for an interception and a touchback.
The Titans took over with 6:30 left in the game. Three plays into their drive Mettenberger mishandled a shotgun snap, leading to a loss of six yards. On the next play, Clayborn was able to loop around on a stunt to pressure Mettenberger from behind, causing an overthrown pass to McCluster which Allen nearly picked off but couldn’t make the diving grab. Then on 3rd-and-16, Mettenberger checked it down to McCluster for a seven-yard gain and the Titans were settling to punt the ball with 3:47 left on the clock. However Beasley lazily jogged off the field and the Falcons were flagged with a 12-men on the field penalty, giving the Titans renewed hopes after the five-yard penalty. Opting to go for it on 4th-and-4 at their 37-yard line, Mettenberger missed an open Hunter in the flat and the Falcons took over on a turnover on downs.
The Falcons ran it to Freeman twice for minimal gain, forcing the Titans to blow their first two timeouts. On 3rd-and-8, Ryan was hit low by linebacker Zack Brown, but was able to stand in the pocket and hit Jones over the middle for a six-yard gain. That set up a 47-yard field goal for Bryant, but the veteran kicker pushed it wide right and the Falcons gave the ball back to the Titans with 2:28 left on the clock.
Mettenberger completed two passes before the two-minute warning to get into Falcons territory and then another as the final seconds were ticking off the clock. Then Mettenberger badly underthrew Wright on his next pass, which Therezie capitalized on for an interception.
The Falcons took over at their 43-yard line with 1:31 left on the game clock. A pair of short runs by Freeman bled time off the clock before the Falcons went into victory formation with the final play of the game.
The Falcons return home next week to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) in their second NFC South matchup of the year. The Falcons have won 10 of their last 13 matchups against the Bucs, dating back to the end of the 2008 season. In that span, the Falcons have won six of seven home games with their only loss coming in the 2012 season finale by a score of 22-17. The last Georgia Dome matchup between the two teams featured a 56-17 thrashing at the hands of the Falcons. However despite the lopsided record as of late against the Bucs, the games are usually close with eight of the last 13 being decided by eight points or less.