NASHVILLE, Tenn – The conditions weren't optimal by any means for rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who took his first snaps as a pro on Saturday against the Packers – but maybe that's just how it's supposed to be.
The jump from the college game to the NFL isn't easy at any position, especially for a quarterback. So why not get thrown into the fire – or monsoon – as was the case in Tennessee's preseason opener at LP Field?
Mettenberger entered the game with the score tied at 13 and played the entire fourth quarter. His first pass was a third-down-dart to Isaiah Williams on a quick slant for 16 yards. His next two passes were incomplete, then he lost the handle of the third down snap – resulting in a fumble recovered by Packers linebacker Jake Doughty.
"It was a wet ball. That was all me," Mettenberger said after the game. "I just have to have better ball security."
The next series wasn't any smoother for Mettenberger and the Titans offense, when a pass over the middle went off the hands of Jackie Battle and was intercepted.
Tennessee's defense stood tall after both turnovers, allowing merely a field goal to keep the Titans within one score.
Down 16-13 with 6:59 remaining in the game, Mettenberger and the offense came to life, and the team's sixth-round pick gave Titans fans a glimpse of his potential.
His first down throw was complete over the middle to Michael Preston for seven yards. Out of the no-huddle, Mettenberger's second down pass sent a wide open Chase Coffman down the right sideline for 26 more.
On the third play of the drive, Brian Robiskie burned his man down the middle of the field and made a diving catch on a majestic deep ball from Mettenberger for a gain of 38.
"It was just a heck of a catch by Brian," Mettenberger said commending his receiver. "He had a linebacker on him in the middle of the field and I just put it up for him to make a play. That's a tough catch to make when it's wet."
In the blink of an eye – or three plays to be exact – the Titans went from their own 20, to the Green Bay nine yard line.
Two carries from Jackie Battle and a Maikon Bonani PAT vaulted the Titans to a 20-16 lead with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The scoring drive only took five plays and two minutes off the clock – a picture perfect sequence in the no- huddle offense. Mettenberger said he didn't have much experience with the no huddle before coming to Tennessee, but has begun to pick it up through OTAs and training camp.
"I didn't do it a lot in college, but I like it," Mettenberger said. "It's a good change of pace to get going and put the defense on their heels. It's all about you controlling the tempo and making plays. I've learned a lot about the two-minute offense and the no huddle since I've been here but there's still a lot for me to learn and develop on."
Mettenberger wasn't ready to jump to either extreme when discussing his performance following the win.
"Did some good things, did some bad things," Mettenberger said. "Obviously, you don't want to turn the ball over no matter what the conditions are, but we did a good job pulling together and executing a drive to win the game."
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt had this to say of the rookie's debut.
"He can't put the ball on the ground. He did some things in the pocket where he's got to keep two hands on the ball, but he made some good throws," Whisenhunt said. "He's got a long way to go, as a lot of young players do, but there's no substitute for taking a team down the field in the fourth quarter and scoring a touchdown. That's a big deal, and it was good to see him do that."
Confidence has never been an issue with Mettenberger and he is looking forward to more reps this Friday against the New Orleans Saints – a game where Monsoon-type conditions shouldn't be an issue inside the Super Dome.
"I know I'm capable of playing this game," he said. "We want to minimize mistakes and turnovers. To pull together like we did was a really good thing for this team. Hopefully we can keep developing and be ready for New Orleans next week."