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Hunter Shines in Titans Loss to Saints

Posted Aug 15, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Wide receiver Justin Hunter caught four passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, but five turnovers proved to be too much for the Titans to overcome in a 31-24 loss to the Saints at the Mercedes Benz Superdome Friday night in New Orleans.  

Tennessee fell to 1-1 on the preseason and will look to bounce back next Saturday night against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Despite the loss, the Titans had several positives on the night, including the play of Hunter, who hauled in touchdowns of four and 64 yards. Hunter did it all Friday night, showing off his sure hands, leaping ability and breakaway speed. it's exactly what Titans fans wanted to see as the receiver's hype has been building throughout the offseason and training camp.

Jake Locker and the first-team offense played just two series, but those two drives encompassed 11:32 of time on the clock and resulted in 10 points for the Titans. Locker finished with an efficient 8-of-11 passing for 75 yards and one touchdown – a four-yard fade to Hunter in the back of the end zone.

“This is the first real opportunity to see Jake operate the offense. We weren’t perfect, but there were a lot of good things,” Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I like the way we responded to the Saints touchdown to open the game. It was very encouraging to see him operate the way he did.”

Locker left pleased with the performance of the offense in the team’s second preseason affair.

“It was good to come out and start the way we did,” said Locker. “It was two good drives, two long drives where we overcame some tough down and distances. Overall I think it was something we can definitely build on.”

Second-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst’s night was short-lived. He suffered a hand injury after being sacked on his first drop back of the game. From the 3:37 mark of the second quarter, rookie Zach Mettengerger was handed the keys to the Titans offense.

Similar to Mettenberger’s debut against the Packers, Friday’s performance yielded mixed results. The passing numbers were massive – 20-of-25 for 269 yards and two touchdowns – but the rookie from LSU also turned the ball over two times with a fumble and interception.

"I think we've got something with Mettenberger." said Whisenhunt of his rookie quarterback. "He's doing a lot of good things, but he's making a lot of rookie mistakes, too. We're going to keep working with him. It's such a long process with young quarterbacks. He's done a nice job in these games for the most part."

Tennessee's first-team defense also had a similar start to last week’s win against the Packers. The unit began the game on the field and allowed the Saints to score on the game’s first possession. The defense rebounded nicely with stops on the Saints' next two offensive drives.

Titans running backs showed well, accumulating 88 yards on 21 carries (4.2 avg.). Shonn Green led the team with 46 yards on nine carries and a long of 14 before leaving the game with a knee injury. Rookie back Bishop Sankey also impressed with six carries for 31 yards. Both ball carriers, however, did lose a fumble. 

Tennessee owned a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter following Justin Hunter’s second score, but a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin to Mark Ingram put the Saints up 21-17 going into the half.

Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham scored his team's first two touchdowns and finished with 48 yards on five catches. Receiver Josh Morgan led the team with 108 receiving yards on three catches.

As many games go in the preseason, Friday’s contest failed to gain any sort of rhythm. Much of that can be attributed to penalties – a combined 32 from both teams for a total of 295 yards. Countless other flags were thrown for penalties that ended up being declined.

Down 31-17 in the fourth quarter, Mettenberger had a pass deflect off of Marc Mariani and into the arms of tight end Chase Coffman for a one-yard touchdown with just 10 seconds remaining. The Saints recovered Maikon Bonani’s onside kick attempt to seal the Saints' win.

NOTES: QB Charlie Whitehurst (hand), RB Shonn Greene (knee), and RT Michael Oher (arm) all left Friday’s game and didn’t return … K Travis Coons nailed a 50-yard field goal in the second quarter, two yards longer than any make during his college career … TE Taylor Thompson continues to have a nice month as he finished as the Titans second leading receiver with five catches for 56 yards


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