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Titans Set Tone Early, Roll to 23-3 Win Over the Falcons in Preseason Opener


ATLANTA The offense produced plenty of points, the defense swarmed and made plays, and the special teams unit made a big impact.

Sure, many of the Titans starters didn't play, and some didn't even make the trip to Atlanta for the team's preseason opener last night against the Falcons.

But the overall performance was still good from start to finish, as the Titans rolled to a 23-3 win over the Falcons.

"We're never going to underestimate winning at anything," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "We're going to want to compete with whoever is in there."

The Titans competed well on Friday night.

Logan Woodside started at quarterback for the Titans, as Ryan Tannehill remained in Nashville with running back Derrick Henry and a pretty big number of starters. Some of the front-liners who did make the trip and suited up didn't play long.

There were plenty of positive signs from the Titans who did play, however, as they set the tone and took control of the game early at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Return man Chester Rogers provided a big play – while helping his case for a roster spot – with a 56-yard punt return late in the first quarter.

"That was a fun play," Rogers said. "It was good to get out there, and get the jitters out of the way. And it was good to get out there and show the team the type of play I am capable of."

The Titans used the good field position to take an early 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by kicker Tucker McCann.

Meanwhile, the Titans swarmed on defense, forcing punts while getting five sacks and a turnover.

Linebacker Ola Adeniyi had a first half sack, and linebacker Rashad Weaver and defensive lineman Trevon Coley also combined for another in the first half as the Titans shut out the Falcons in the first 30 minutes. Linebackers Wyatt Ray and Jan Johnson combined for another second half sack for the Titans, and then Ray added another one. Weaver was also in on another sack late.

Weaver's performance was an eye catcher – he finished the game with 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, one tackle for a loss, and three tackles.

It was linebacker David Long who made the biggest play on defense early, as he intercepted a pass from Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron at the Atlanta 34-yard line.

It set up the biggest play early on offense, as Woodside connected with receiver Cameron Batson for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Titans a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.

Long brought the football to the post-game press conference.

"I haven't had a pick since high school," Long said with a smile. "For me to go out there and make a play for the team, it means a lot to me."

The Titans stretched the lead to 13-0 later in the second quarter on a 42-yard field goal by McCann, which capped an 11-play, 35-yard drive guided by Woodside.

Woodside played the first half, and he finished the contest 10-of-15 for 84 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 103.2. Matt Barkley started the second half for the Titans, and he also played well, completing 5-of-8 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

"It was awesome to be back out there with the guys again," Woodside said. "And it was good to come out with a win, for sure. … Overall, I thought it was a pretty good night."

Another positive development: McCann was a perfect 2-of-2 kicking field goals (plus a made 47-yarder that was negated because of a roughing the penalty call on the Falcons), and kicker Sam Ficken also made his only attempt, from 44 yards out.

It wasn't all good for the Titans, however.

The offensive line was shaky, allowing three sacks in the first half and too many quarterback hits.

The Titans were penalized three times for 30 yards in the first half, and they had nine penalties for 69 yards in the contest.

Also, the Titans had four players injured in the first half alone – Evans (knee), Coley (foot), safety Brady Breeze (ankle) and linebacker B.J. Bello (ankle).

After the fast start, the Titans took care of business late.

The Falcons finally got on the board on their first possession of the second half on a 42-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo, which made it 13-3.

But the Titans answered back with a 10-play, 37-yard scoring drive engineered by Barkley, and capped it off with a 44-yard field goal by Ficken to make it 16-3 with just 17 seconds left in the third quarter.

Then, Barkley connected with tight end Miller Forristall for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 23-3 midway through the fourth quarter. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive.

"It's a great feeling to win at any aspect of life," Batson said. "You don't want to go back on that plane, eyes down, heads down. So, it is always good to get a victory, and keep it pushing."

The Titans return to the practice field on Sunday, and they'll practice on Sunday and Monday before traveling to Tampa on Tuesday for joint practices against the Buccaneers on Wednesday and Thursday. The team's second preseason game is next Saturday against the Buccaneers.

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