Titans comeback fails as Falcons prevail 23-17

For most of today’s game, it looked like the Atlanta Falcons might run away with today’s game at the Georgia Dome. Behind the improvisational passing skills of Jake Locker, though, the Titans cut what had been a 20-point deficit to six late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons, though, were able to salt the game away and came through with a 23-17 victory.

The Titans had a particularly desultory start. The first drive ended after a third-down pass to Lavelle Hawkins fell wildly incomplete on a miscommunication. The Falcons then converted that possession to a 7-0 lead after three consecutive completions to Tony Gonzalez. A second Titans possession ended on an interception after some miscommunication between Matt Hasselbeck and Hawkins again, and the Falcons kicked a field goal for a 10-0 lead. Matt Hasselbeck converted a third down with the Titans’ longest run of the day, a 17-yard scramble, on their third possession, but it still ended in a punt, and the Falcons went up 13-0 on a field goal.

Tennessee finally got on the board late in the first half, after Hasselbeck found a rhythm and passed the Titans into field goal range in the final minute and Rob Bironas hit from 46. The Falcons would extend their lead to 20-3 after marching 80 yards on the first drive of the second half. Roddy White had a big 43-yard gain on a deep sideline pattern, and Michael Turner finished off the drive. 20-3, and the Titans looked D-U-N done.

Matt Hasselbeck would suffer an elbow injury, though, and Jake Locker would come in with 2:57 to play in the third quarter and the Falcons leading 23-3. Marc Mariani had a nice kickoff return out ot the Falcons 48, and on third down, Locker rolled right and hit Nate Washington. Washington spun around to elude two Falcons defenders, and raced to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown pass.  Locker would miss second and third down passes the next time the Titans had the ball and it looked like the Falcons would seal their win with another TD when William Hayes jumped to give them first-and-goal, but Colin McCarthy forced a Michael Turner fumble. On the ensuing possession, Locker rolled out and hit Nate Washington for 17 yards, scrambled for 11 yards on third down, scrambled and hit Jared Cook for what was a 22-yard gain after Cook made a couple defenders miss to convert fourth-and-17, scrambled and threw a jump ball to Lavelle Hawkins, and then rolled out and hit Nate Washington for a four-yard score and a 23-17 deficit with just oveer three minutes to play.

The comeback was not to be, though, as Mike Munchak elected to kick deep and trust his defense and three timeouts to stop the Falcons. Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a first-down, though, and the Falcons could run out the clock.

After the jump, a number of player and other notes:

  • I thought Mike Munchak should have onsided after they cut it to 23-10 but apparently the Falcons had the same idea and put their hands team out. As the ball was at the 50 after a penalty, I probably still would have onsided there because the Falcons were far from field goal range. Keep in mind expected onside kicks are recovered something like 15% of the time. I thought the decision to kick deep with three minutes to play was not clearly wrong.
  • Jake Locker is two completely different quarterbacks in the pocket and on the run. Standing in the pocket, he’s terrible. He doesn’t seem to be able to read defenses and cannot throw accurately. On the run, he’s able to see what’s going on and, at least as important, throw the ball accurately. He can throw from either place with good power, but doesn’t seem to have much touch on his throws.
  • Chris Johnson had another ineffective game, with 12 carries for 13 yards. :whistling:
  • The run defense was for the most part pretty lousy today. Michael Turner had 100 yards on 21 carries and ran over Michael Griffin a few times. There was some good work in goalline carries.
  • Barrett Ruud left late in the second quarter, and Colin McCarthy went the rest of the way at MLB. He’s solid against the run, but I thought Matt Ryan took advantage of the holes in the middle of the Titans’ zone in passing.
  • Akeem Ayers was the other linebacker in nickel. The Titans seemed to play a lot of nickel, more than I think was required, and the results included that Will Witherspoon was not on the field that much.
  • Has anybody seen Shaun Smith lately? He had one assisted tackle and hardly played.
  • Pass pressure? What pass pressure? There was hardly any on Matt Ryan all game.
  • David Stewart left in the second quarter with a calf injury and did not return. Mike Otto went the rest of the way at right tackle, and played like a backup tackle.
  • Leroy Harris left the game in the fourth quarter, I believe, with an injury, and I do not recall seeing him return. Fernando Velasco played the rest of the way.
  • Nate Washington provided a reminder he’s the Titans’ best healthy receiver with 9 grabs for 115 yards and both scores.
  • The refs got flag-happy at times, but the Titans’ 10 penalties for 86 yards were for the most part very deserved and hurt the team today. I thought Mike Munchak was supposed to make a difference there, but the Titans today played kind of stupid.
  • Kudos to Vegas and to me. It didn’t look like it for most of the game, but a 6-point line proved to be spot on.
  • Munchak apparently said at today’s post-game presser that Hasselbeck if healthy should start the rest of the way. This probably won’t be a popular stance, but I’m absolutely with him right now.

Anyway, that’s what I saw this week.

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