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Jake Locker on Target in 27-16 Victory Over Falcons

Posted Aug 24, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s defense denied Atlanta the end zone early, and the Titans’ offense found it thrice in a 27-16 win at LP Field on Saturday.

After opening slowly on its first two possessions, the Titans moved the ball effectively on their third possession by opening with a pair of passes from Jake Locker to Kenny Britt for gains of 18 and 16.

Chris Johnson then found a large opening on the right side for 19 yards, by running through a hole between left guard Andy Levitre, who pulled on the play, and tight end Taylor Thompson. Johnson rushed for 4 on the next play before Locker faked a handoff to Shonn Greene, quickly reset and fired a strike on a post pattern to Nate Washington, who had four catches for 70 yards. Johnson had 65 yards on 11 carries.

The drive built on momentum gained when the defense kept Atlanta outside of Tennessee’s 25-yard line and forced a 46-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley that sailed wide right.

“We started off a little slow,” Locker said. “We didn’t get a whole lot of plays in the first quarter, but we really came back in the second quarter.  I think we controlled the ball, controlled the line of scrimmage.  We were able to do really well in the play-action game, moved the ball down the field and were able to put some points on the board.”

Tennessee also mounted scoring drives on each of its next two possessions. The Titans blended passing by Locker and power running by Greene during a 10-play drive that gained 64 yards in 5:23 and ended with a 39-yard field goal by Rob Bironas, and drove 45 yards on six plays in 41 seconds to add a 53-yarder by Bironas with 23 seconds left in the first half.

“We had three good drives there in the second quarter, and it was a nice two-minute drive at the end to get the field goal,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We haven’t had one of those, so that was good to see.  The fumble early by Jake (Locker) trying to make a play kind of slowed the offense early, but after that, it was good.  I think now we’re getting a feel for it.” 

Tennessee (1-2 in the preseason) overcame penalties on each of Atlanta’s first two possessions and the fumble that gave the ball to the Falcons (0-3) at the Tennessee 47-yard line to start the second possession.
Moise Fokou and Karl Klug combined to sack Matt Ryan on third-and-3 from the six-yard line to force a 27-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley, and Coty Sensabaugh blanketed Harry Douglas to prevent Ryan’s toss to the end zone on third-and-seven from the 13 and force a 31-yard field goal by Shelley.

The turnover was the first committed by the Titans this preseason and occurred after Locker eluded a sack on quick pressure by the Falcons, rolled to the right and scrambled for six yards as he tried to convert a third-and-7.

Locker played one series in the third quarter before yielding to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Locker finished 11-for-13 passing for 133 yards with the TD and a passer rating of 134.1.

Fitzpatrick came in blazing with a 56-yard completion to Michael Preston on his first attempt and a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie Justin Hunter a play later. It was Hunter’s third catch of the preseason and first scoring play. Fitzpatrick added a 6-yard TD pass to Preston in the fourth quarter to cap a six-play, 22-yard drive after Titans linebacker Jonathan Willard intercepted Dominique Davis at the Atlanta 22. Fitzpatrick finished 6-for-9 for 76 yards with two TDs and one interception.

Tennessee’s first team frequently pressured Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and sacked him four times in the first half. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who was part of the push up front in the first half, added a sack of Ryan in the third quarter on the QB’s final play of the night.

“It went real well,” Casey said. “That was one of our goals this whole season is to get to the quarterback and take pressure off of our DBs, and I felt up front we had a great game today being able to do that.”
Other items of note:

— Bironas bounced back from two missed field goals at Cincinnati with strong kicks of 39 and 53 yards.

— Washington and Greene did not play in the second half because of ankle sprains they suffered in the first half.

— The pre-game playlist included “Keep on Waylin,” which is a song recently written by Titans offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge.

— Tennessee played without its three starting linebackers from 2012. Akeem Ayers (ankle), Colin McCarthy (hamstring) and Zach Brown (foot) did not participate. The Titans are hoping McCarthy, who participated in drills and scout team work last week at Thursday’s practice will be able to participate next Thursday at Minnesota as a tune-up before the season begins.

— In addition to Ayers, McCarthy and Brown, Delanie Walker (knee), Kendall Wright (knee), Marc Mariani (shoulder), Sammie Hill (elbow), Ropati Pitoitua (hand), Quinn Johnson (hamstring), Zaviar Gooden (ankle), Markelle Martin (hamstring), DeMarco Cosby (leg) and Kevin Walter (back) did not play.

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