Ryan gets win in first start as Falcons top Titans
ATLANTA (AP)—Matt Ryan was a winner in his first preseason start, perhaps moving the rookie closer to being named the Falcons’ regular-season starter.
Ryan opened the second half with a touchdown pass to give Atlanta the lead in a 17-3 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Friday night.
Ryan, the third pick in the draft, completed 15 of 21 passes for 102 yards with a 1-yard scoring pass to another rookie, Harry Douglas, and no interceptions. He said he had “a lot of fun.”
“I thought I did some good things and I thought I made some mistakes,” Ryan said.
Falcons coach Mike Smith said he would study the film before saying how the game might affect the quarterback competition with Chris Redman, who finished last season as Atlanta’s starter and played behind the rookie in the second half.
“My feel is the tape doesn’t lie,” Smith said.
Ryan outplayed Tennessee starter Vince Young, the No. 3 pick in 2006. Young was 9-of-18 passing for 102 yards and an interception.
Young led the Titans (2-1 preseason) on a 10-play drive for a field goal on their first possession, but they couldn’t score again.
“We definitely need to get into the end zone,” Young said. “That would be a relief.”
Added Titans tight end Alge Crumpler, who made the Pro Bowl four times in Atlanta: “We’re a better team than this. We’ll get better. We’re nowhere near panic.”
Crumpler caught two passes for nine yards in his return to the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta rookie Thomas Brown scored on a 9-yard run with 3:22 left to add to the lead.
Ryan played the full first half, completing 8 of 11 passes for 47 yards, but he couldn’t produce a touchdown drive.
The biggest letdown for the Ryan-led offense came just before halftime.
“I thought we did a lot of good things as an offense, but I made a couple of poor throws toward the end of the first half,” Ryan said. “We were able to come out and score at the beginning of the third quarter, and that was a good way to end it.”
Jason Elam ended the disappointing possession by missing a 33-yard field goal attempt, leaving the score 3-3.
Ryan led the Falcons on a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Running back Jerious Norwood’s 39-yard run to the 1 set up Ryan’s scoring pass to Douglas.
After making the catch, Douglas immediately pointed to Ryan, who left the field on a high note.
“I think he played well and he handled himself well against a good defense,” Smith said.
Redman led a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. On third-and-goal from the 9, Brown ran left and then cut back right through the Tennessee defense for the score.
Yet another Atlanta rookie, cornerback Chevis Jackson, intercepted a Young pass on the last play of the first quarter to end a long drive. Jackson grabbed a pass intended for Brandon Jones at the Falcons’ 25 and returned the ball 22 yards.
The Titans’ first turnover of the preseason set up a six-play drive that ended with Elam’s 39-yard field goal.
The Titans couldn’t maintain the momentum.
“We have to buckle down and improve before we get into the regular season,” said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher. “We weren’t able to complete drives. We need to score points.”
Titans running back LenDale White was held out with sore ribs. Johnson, a first-round pick, had 11 carries for 35 yards and two catches for 23 yards, all in the first half.
“He made some pretty good runs,” Fisher said.
Brian Finner and Michael Jenkins each caught five passes for Atlanta.