NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Linebacker Brian Orakpo is ready to proclaim the Titans one of the NFL’s great defenses after they smothered the Atlanta Falcons.
Unfortunately, the Titans keep finding ways to lose.
Defensively, the Titans stopped the Falcons on fourth down not once, but twice, with the second on an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter. They got the ball back for the offense twice in the final 6:30 only to lose 10-7 Sunday to the Falcons.
“The game was there for the taking,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. “There was a couple of turnovers our defense got. I feel like when we went out there, we should have made plays and we didn’t.”
The Titans (1-5) lost their fifth straight overall and ninth consecutive at home dating back to last season. They played without rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and two starters in their secondary before losing two more starters to injuries in cornerback Jason McCourty and center Andy Gallik.
Tennessee got the ball back for the last time with 2:28 remaining after the Titans forced Atlanta to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt that Matt Bryant missed wide right. But Zach Mettenberger said he was too aggressive trying to force a ball to Kendall Wright when he should have thrown to Walker.
Falcons rookie safety Robenson Therezie picked off the pass with 1:31, sealing Atlanta’s victory.
“In that situation, all we needed was to get 12 yards to get in field goal range to push the game to overtime,” Mettenberger said. “Just a bonehead mistake by me to not fully grasp the situation and take Delanie.”
Tennessee has lost three games by a combined six points in this skid on its own field. The Titans haven’t won at home since Oct. 12, 2014.
“It hurts, there’s no question it hurts,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You want to be a good football team, and we haven’t done that. You want it to be different, but we’re working to get there.”
Matt Ryan threw for 251 yards and a touchdown pass, and Devonta Freeman had 116 yards rushing, his third consecutive game with at least 100. The Falcons (6-1) overcame two interceptions and outgained Tennessee 378-256.
“At the end of the day, a win’s a win,” Ryan said. “When you go on the road in this league and get it done … that’s rewarding.”
The Titans kept Julio Jones out of the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, stopping him 6 inches outside the goal line. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn thought the Falcons scored and challenged, but officials ruled the receiver short of the goal line.
The Titans stopped Atlanta fullback Patrick DiMarco on third down, then Titans linebacker Avery Williamson intercepted Ryan’s pass intended for Jacob Tamme in the end zone with 6:30 left.
Tennessee’s only points were set up by the defense when linebacker David Bass tipped a Ryan pass into the air and grabbed it. Mettenberger found Wright for a 19-yard touchdown on the next play and a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Titans played without cornerback Perrish Cox (hamstring) and safety Michael Griffin (left knee), and cornerback McCourty left early in the third quarter with a sore hamstring. They lost their second center in as many games at halftime when Gallik was sidelined by a concussion at halftime, forcing Joe Looney - signed Tuesday - onto the field.
Atlanta took control in the third quarter, outgaining the Titans 134-35. Ryan finished off an 88-play drive by tossing an 8-yard TD pass to Jones, giving the Falcons their first lead at 10-7 late in the quarter.
Notes: McCourty said after the game he thinks he’ll be fine, though his hamstring is sore. … Mariota watched from the sideline. … Neither Falcons WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) nor Falcons S William Moore played in the second half with an injured groin.
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