A quarter of the 2019 season is in the books for the Atlanta Falcons.
The bad news appears to be that that there are three quarters left.
Uninspired, uninterested and totally devoid of energy in a partially empty stadium, the Falcons were blasted 24-10 Sunday by the Tennessee Titans.
» STEVE HUMMER: 1-3 start brings bad memories of past seasons
“When you’re not performing well, you look at everything,” said Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who had to listen to his team being booed by fans. “Whether that’s role or featuring players or however you need to address it, you do. You can’t have the one-offs… ‘except for, other than this play, in between the 20,’ all those things are just excuses to me.”
The Falcons dropped to a disappointing 1-3 on the season, while the Titans, coming off a mini-bye, improved to 2-2.
With the defeat, the Falcons have now dropped six straight games to AFC teams and are 1-10 against AFC teams since blowing the 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI.
» MARK BRADLEY: Quinn’s time as coach nearing end
Quarterback Matt Ryan heard the disgruntled fans, loud and clear.
“That’s part of if when you’re playing poorly,” Ryan said. “You are not giving them much to cheer about. You get it.
“We want to give them something to get loud about. To make those plays to get this place rocking. We didn’t do that (Sunday). We’ve got to find a way to make plays to get the energy in the building going.”
The Falcons fell behind 24-7 and could not mount a credible rally as the running game was extinguished and stopped on a key fourth-and-1 attempt.
The Falcons were also 5-of-14 on third downs (36 %) and 1-of-4 on fourth downs (25 %).
Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 18-of-27 passes for 227 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 129.7.
Tennessee running back Derrick Henry rushed 27 times for 100 yards to help protect the lead and keep the clock rolling.
Ryan completed 35-of-53 passes for 397 yards, with no touchdowns. He was sacked five times.
It’s been 18 games since Ryan failed to have at least one touchdown pass. His last game without a scoring throw was the opener last season, an 18-12 loss at Philadelphia.
» DAN QUINN: ‘Nobody more frustrated than us’
Tight end Austin Hooper caught nine passes for 130 yards. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught nine passes for 91 yards.
“Coming out, they definitely were in Cover 6 and two-man,” said wide receiver Julio Jones, who had four catches for 52 yards. “For the most part of the whole game they just doubled me and were like, ‘hey, make somebody else beat us today.’ ”
Once down, the Falcons had to contend with Henry.
Both teams punted on their first possessions, then the Titans had a quick-strike score when Mariota and A.J. Brown connected on a 55-yard pass play. Brown, a rookie from Mississippi who was drafted in the second round, ran a nice route through the middle on cornerback Desmond Trufant. After catching the ball, Brown darted back outside and away from Trufant and free safety Damontae Kazee.
Linebacker Deion Jones gave chase, but couldn’t get Brown.
The Falcons answered with a 1-yard Ito Smith touchdown run to make it 7-7.
The Titans, who were coming off a 20-7 loss to Jacksonville on a Thursday night, used two Falcons penalties to help them march 75 yards for a 14-play touchdown drive. Mariota tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brown on a fade route. Trufant was in coverage. The score put the Titans up 14-7.
“I just didn’t play well tonight,” Trufant said. “Was playing really well up until this point. Just didn’t carry over to today. So, you know, on a couple plays I took it on the chin. I just have to bounce back.”
Ryan fumbled on the next possession, but the defense forced a punt. When the Falcons couldn’t move it, Tennessee cobbled together a five-play, 35-yard drive and got a 45-yard field goal from Cairo Santos to make it 17-7.
The Falcons were driving, but running back Devonta Freeman was stuffed for a yard loss on fourth-and-1 from Tennessee’s 39-yard line. Why they were running at Tennessee defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was a curious selection.
Qadree Ollison, a power back the Falcons drafted for short yardage situations, was inactive for the fourth straight game.
The Titans, using a 22-yard pass to Corey Davis, marched into Falcons’ territory. On third-and-5 from the 23, Mariota found Davis along the left sideline, he slipped a tackle from cornerback Isaiah Oliver at the 9-yard and tight-roped it into the end zone to make it 24-7.
Matt Bryant missed a 32-yard field goal off the left upright in the second quarter. It was his first miss inside of 40 yards since the 2017 season. He added a 42-yard field in the third quarter, but the offense never could get in sync.
Now, the Falcons have been outscored 71-20 in the first halves this season and have not been able to overcome those deficits. They lead 10-6 against the Eagles in their only win of the season.
“If I knew the exact answer, I’d fix it,” center Alex Mack said of the slow starts. “Games are tough. It comes down to a couple of pivotal moments and things can certainly get lopsided. We just need to stay on track and keep working hard.”
For the Falcons, it’s off to Houston to face another AFC team and play in the stadium where they blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history.
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