The Titans need to break a bad habit.
For three consecutive preseason games, where both teams are playing projected starters, the two-tone Blue has given up touchdowns on the opponents’ first drive of the game.
It hasn’t been difficult for opponents to take the ball the distance. There hasn’t been much resistance.
The Falcons wasted no time, marching 79 yards on 11 plays. It was capped off by Matt Ryan’s 31-yard touchdown pass. The Titans trailed 7-0, a troubling hole to start the game.
It was the first time in three games that the Titans faced a team’s starting quarterback. It showed.
The Green Bay Packers didn’t dress quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Saints didn’t dress quarterback Drew Brees.
But there was Falcons starter Ryan carving up the Titans 3-4 defense early and often.
In five first half possessions, the Falcons went touchdown, punt, touchdown, field goal and turned it over on downs. They threw up 17 points on their first four possessions.
The Titans offense went punt, field goal, punt, touchdown and a missed 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Titans Coach Ken Whisenhunt was concerned once again with the Titans defense.
“I don’t like it that we let them complete passes on slants,” Whisenhunt said. “They got two (touchdowns) on us.
“I liked that we got 14 points down and responded.”
The Titans starting offense started the third quarter, but only had one drive that didn’t produce any points.
The Titans defense has one game to get their act together for the regular season. Defensive coordinator Ray Martin has his hands full as he tries to make the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.
You say the Titans defense threw a shutout in the second half and the Titans won, 24-17. I say it was second and third string players for both teams. The Titans defense has been weak against the run. The Titans gave up 13 first downs in the first half. They allowed 36 plays while the Titans were held to 26 plays.
The Falcons outgained the Titans in the first half by a 259-165 yard advantage.
Earlier in the week, Ryan said his team would be more up-tempo than they had been in the first two games with backup quarterbacks.
“Whether or not that’s huddling or no huddle, that’s something where we’ll see if it shakes out, but there is going to be a lot of tempo,” Ryan forecast.
After a meaningless game against the Vikings, the Titans have to trim their roster down to 53 players. They started training camp with 90, so you can see there is still a lot of competition at a number of positions. They need all the help they can find on defense.
They haven’t had a big playmaker stand up in the defensive line. The linebackers are up and down. The secondary has given up too much space at times.
On the Falcons first drive, veteran Devin Hester juked cornerback Jason McCourty, who slipped and never recovered as Hester took the Ryan slant pass and went in for a 31-yard touchdown. It was 17-3 Falcons with 3:40 before halftime and to the Titans credit, they hit on a Jake Locker to Nate Washington 63-yard touchdown to trim the lead to 17-10 with 2:40 left.
At this point the Titans offense is ahead of the defense. I believe the problem is more one of scheme than it is talent on defense.
Martin and his defensive assistants are running out of time to make it mesh as a unit that can stop long drives and get turnovers.
The Titans can’t afford to give up early touchdown drives in the regular season. It puts them in a hole and gives the other team more confidence.
They are not a team that can put up big numbers on offense. They had 13 points through three quarters.
It’s a problem that Whisenhunt has to solve in the next 10 days when the real season begins in Kansas City.