It happened again.
For the third consecutive preseason game the Tennessee Titans first team defense gave up a touchdown drive on the Falcons first offensive drive of the night.
On the opening possession it was Ryan connecting with Devin Hester for a 31 yard touchdown as Jason McCourty slipped in coverage and Hester outraces defenders for the score to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
Things didn't get much better from there as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones made the Titans secondary pay repeatedly in the first half.
Following a 44 yard Maikon Bonani field goal Ryan went back to work and found Jones for a 52 yard touchdown pass and run that pushed the Falcons lead to 14-3.
Matt Bryant would tack on a 22 yard field goal to stretch the Atlanta lead to 17-3 before the Titans offense would show a sign of life.
On their fifth offensive possession of the first half, it was Jake Locker completing a 3 play 76 yard drive when he connected with Nate Washington for a 63 yard touchdown to trim the Falcons lead to 17-10
Coach Ken Whisenhunt spoke at halftime about his teams first half performance.
"Offensively, we were in some tough situations a couple of times. We have to run it better. We put ourselves in some third-and-longs, and we gave up some pressure and made mistakes. But I like the way they responded at the end of the half,: said WHisenhunt. "Obviously the big play for the touchdown gave us a little momentum and fired up the defense. We have to continue with that."
The third quarter belonged to the Titans, as the teams traded possession and the only points of the quarter coming on the leg of Bonani, who connected on his second field goal of the night. His 51 yard kick cut the Falcons advantage to 17-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Travis Coons got his chance in the kicking competition as well, and connected from 39 yards in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 17-16.
Coons did have a miss on the night, though it was at the end of the first half from 63 yards and won't likely factor into the final decision at that position.
For the second time in the preseason rookie quarterback Zach Mettneberger got his chance to shine, and though he had some bad moments, he was able to lead a second fourth quarter drive for a game winning score.
Mettenberger finished the night 11 of 19 for 148 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers. (fumbles or interceptions) His quarterback rating was only 82.8 but he made the plays necessary to lead the thirteen play 74 yard drive that was capped by Bishop Sankey's three yard run for the game winner.
Following the game both Locker and Mettenberger spoke about the win.
"I thought that it went pretty well, we had to overcome some situations with field position and tough down and distances," said Locker. "We didn't move the ball early as well as we would have liked, but kind of found a rhythm a little bit there in the second quarter of the first half.
"I thought we started great last week, and like I said, we didn't start the way we wanted to," continued Locker. "I thought we responded well and we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game.
Locker was asked if he was satisfied with where the offense is at this point through three preseason games and ready for Kansas City (season opener).
"We got two more weeks, and in those two weeks it will be a good opportunity for us to continue to work and clean some things up that we need to clean up," commented Locker. "I'm thankful that we have two more weeks because there are some things we need to address over those couple weeks.
When asked specifically what needed to be "cleaned up," Locker stated communications.
"We got some areas we've got to clean up, we need to communicate better as a group and be on the same page and that's something we'll address going forward," concluded Locker.
For his part Mettenberger seemed unfazed by his game winning drive for the second time in three games.
"Just doing my job really," said Mettenberger. "You get put in the situation with the opportunity and you want to leave here with the win.
As for the defense and allowing the opponents to score on the games opening possession for the third consecutive game, Bernard Pollard admitted that the struggles are their own fault.
"It boils down ton tackling, we gotta tackle better, me I take pride in tackling," said Pollard. "Got to take better angles. We got to know and understand where the guy is, but for us this is the preseason and and get all these bad plays out of the way, get these bad starts out."
The first team defense, which was scheduled to play only the first series of the second half was left in the game for three third quarter series, and Whisenhunt was succinct in his reasoning.
"I was pissed, I was upset," stated Whisenhunt emphatically. "I was asked the question earlier about how long the were going to play, I said some of it was performance based. We started off again playing too tentative, not stopping them on third downs and letting them run all the way down the field. That's not what we do. We don't do tha in practice. I was upset about that, but they responded.
As for the offense, Whisnehunt seem in better spirits.
I thought Jake (Locker)played well, we didn't start out well and ran the wrong routes but overall I thought he did well," concluded Whisenhunt. "We still had 450 yards of offense, we scored points. We did a lot of good things for who it was against. We are working together to get better.
The Titans will conclude the preseason on Thursday night at L.P. Field when the host the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth and final preseason game.