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NFL Preseason Recap Game 3: Falcons fall 24-17 to Titans

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The Falcons' starters shined in the third preseason game, effectively washing out the bad taste from last week's game.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The third preseason game serves as a dress rehearsal of sorts for starters in preparation of the regular season. And despite the 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Falcons look to have a pretty solid cast.

Coming off a 32-7 shellacking at the hands of the Houston Texans, the Falcons responded with a much better showing against the Titans.

Atlanta received the opening kick and marched down the field on an 11-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off with a 31-yard touchdown pass to newcomer Devin Hester, who showed off his speed on the play.

A couple of drives later, Matt Ryan found Julio Jones for a 52-yard touchdown. Jones shrugged off attempted tackles by Bernard Pollard and Coty Sensabaugh and outran the remaining Titans defenders — with help from a block from Harry Douglas — for the score. The three-play, 57-yard drive took just 1:46 off the clock.

Not to be outdone by the offense, the defense forced a three-and-out on the Titans' first drive and a field goal on the second. However, a little later, Jake Locker hooked up with Nate Washington on a deep 63-yard touchdown pass. Desmond Trufant was left trailing Washington on an island on the play, but it looked to be an apparent miscommunication between Dwight Lowery and William Moore.

Heading into halftime, the Falcons held a 17-10 lead over the Titans.

That lead would be squandered in the second half after Tennessee scored 14 unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead. The Titans, led by Zach Mettenberger, dominated the time of possession in the second half.

Atlanta could generate no offense under T.J. Yates. He looked lost, finishing 2/5 for a paltry five yards. On one particular play, Jake Matthews had his man blocked well, but Yates inexplicably ran into the sack. On the stat sheet, it will show as Matthews giving up the sack but it was completely on Yates.

Sean Renfree came in with about four and half minutes left in the game and completed five consecutive passes. Renfree led a drive down to Tennessee's four yard line, but the Falcons were unable to get a score in four downs, giving the ball back to the Titans with just over a minute left.

Antonio Andrews was given the ball on three consecutive plays, and his 56 rushing yards enabled the Titans to end the game in the victory formation.

What to Feel Confident About

Julio is back - He finished with two receptions for 63 yards, headlined by a huge 52-yard touchdown. He broke free from failed tackles and turned it up the field. But the scary part is this: Jones said in a sideline interview he didn't feel like he had that extra gear. It's difficult to imagine him looking any faster than he did on the touchdown catch.

Matt Ryan - We already know how good he is, but it's always fun to watch him carve up defenses. Ryan was surgical against the Titans as he completed passes at will. He ended the night with 224 yards and two touchdowns on 18/23 passing. His preseason stat line through three games: 28/37 for 314 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The offensive line - All eyes were on Matthews, who took over the left tackle spot after Sam Baker went down for the season, and Lamar Holmes, who started at right tackle. Despite committing two penalties and allowing two sacks (with one being squarely on the shoulders of Yates), the rookie looked exceptional in pass protection. The offensive line as a whole — including the much-maligned Holmes — gave Ryan ample time to find receivers. The run blocking was also several steps up from last season. Also of note: Tennessee's Zach Brown shoved Ryan's helmet after the end of a play and was met immediately by Joe Hawley and the other lineman. It's good to see this line isn't standing for anyone putting their hands on Ryan.

Causes For Concern

The officiating - I don't think the replacement referees were as bad as Jerome Boger's crew was tonight. There are no words that can accurately portray just how abysmal the officiating in the game was. Flags were thrown for virtually everything. To make matters worse, the calls were inconsistent: on one play, Jones was tackled by a Titans defender before the ball made it to him, but no flag was thrown. On another, Robert Alford was flagged for defensive holding, although it's debatable whether or not he made contact with the Titans receiver. There's no way this can continue once the regular season starts. 

Penalties - Atlanta racked up 10 penalties for 97 yards, but a large part of that was because of  — as mentioned above — the atrocious officiating. With that said, the Falcons still need to ensure they're committing as few penalties as possible.

Pass rush - The Falcons finished with three sacks, but two came on blitzes from Paul Worrilow and Alford. The defensive line, while stout against the run, needs to be able to generate more pressure on a consistent basis. As it stands now, the line looks like it did last season, although the defense as a whole looks a lot better.

Your thoughts on the game?