A pre-season victory tastes just as sweet as any other victory when you really outplay your opponent. That was definitely the case Friday night, when the Falcons overcame some sloppy play of their own to beat down the Tennessee Titans by a score of 17-3.
Let's roll through the highlights and lowlights, after the jump:
- The play of Matt Ryan and Chris Redman were critical in this game, and both delivered in a big way. Ryan was auditioning for the starting job and showed a stronger arm than most give him credit for; in fact, my knock on him is that he overthrew a couple passes last night. Otherwise, he efficiently moved the offense downfield , completed 15 out of 21 passes and managed a short TD pass. Redman played less but was almost as effective, going 9 for 11 and leading the team on another touchdown drive. The fourth game should be used to determine whether Joey Joe Joe or Shockley makes the team, but it's pretty clear at this point that Ryan is going to start and Redman should be a very capable backup.
- Seeing Jason Snelling and Thomas Brown duke it out for the third running back slot was fantastic. Snelling ran 9 times for 46 yards, including an impressive 19 yard rumble, and at one point I raved to blackertai about how good he looked. Thomas Brown answered that call by running 7 times for 29 yards and a TD. This is way too close to call at this point, and I find myself wishing we could keep both in case of injuries. They're very different types of backs.
- Kroy Biermann won't stop defying my expectations. The Falcons clearly saw the potential for a designated sack machine in this guy, and he's got one in each of the last two games. The usual caveats about backups come into play here, but Biermann looks like he could be a terrific pass-rushing specialist with time. Chevis Jackson also played the role of awesome rookie, snagging an interception.
- It'd be unfair to ignore the receivers. Harry Douglas has the team's lone TD there, but it was Michael Jenkins and Brian Finneran who really impressed. Finn's a huge question mark still because we don't know how he's going to hold up through the season, but it was encouraging to see him doing damage all through the game. Jenkins needs to keep fighting hard to keep Laurent Robinson at bay, and this was certainly a good step in that direction.
- The team played good, conservative football the whole game. The Falcons are never going to win pretty this year, but they may win a lot more ugly games than anyone originally thought.
- Jason Elam's close range field goal miss is no big deal in a pre-season game, but I don't want to see that ever again.
- The offensive line, while solid, was also penalty ridden. Harvey Dahl in particular lost his cool a couple times and ended up with three penalties on the day. I think the line will be stronger than anticipated, but we can't have too many boneheaded mistakes or the offense won't get a chance to move properly.
Overall, this was a quality win. As I've said before, the Falcons are going to win ugly this season if they're going to win at all, so this is something you ought to get used to now. Still, our rookies almost universally did well and this team shows real signs of developing a gritty character through this season. The Titans aren't world-beaters, but this win is one that shows all the ways thing could go right.