Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) runs up field as Tennessee Titans long snapper Ken Amato (58) falls behind during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- Jared Cook didn't make it to the Georgia Dome while at North Gwinnett or for South Carolina. So Sunday's homecoming with the Tennessee Titans was special.
In every way except the final score, that is.
"It was pretty cool to have my family be able to drive down the road to see me play," Cook said after the 23-17 loss to the Falcons. "It was definitely exciting. It just kind of stinks that we couldn't get a win out of it."
But the third-year tight end certainly did all he could to help the Titans as a couple dozen family members and friends looked on.
Cook made a season-high five catches, several of them big ones, and his 51 yards pushed him past last season's total in just Tennessee's 10th game. But the Titans couldn't overcome deficits of 13-0 and 23-3.
"It was disappointing," Cook said. "We're a better offense than that. We got off to a slow start and couldn't get over the hump."
After Cook's 22-yard catch on fourth down kept the drive alive, rookie quarterback Jake Locker -- filling in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck -- connected with Nate Washington for a score to pull Tennessee within six points with 3:06 left.
"We were hoping that the defense could stop them and we'd get the ball back," Cook said.
The Falcons (6-4) were able to run out the clock, though, and the Titans fell to 5-5.
It was been an up-and-down season for Tennessee and Cook, who hasn't quite had the breakout season that some were predicting.
Expectations were high after the 6-foot-5 receiver had 12 catches for 154 yards in the final two games last season. This season's stats have been good, but not great.
The 24-year-old had an 80-yard touchdown against Cleveland, showing off his speed after catching a pass from Hasselbeck. But he has just one other TD and his 25 catches for 386 yards aren't eye-catching figures.
Cook certainly isn't satisfied with his season or that of the team.
"I think this offense should be putting up big points," he said. "I think we should be doing a lot better."
A third-round draft choice in 2009, Cook had just nine catches as a rookie. But he had 29 a year ago thanks to his strong finish and has 25 already this season while sharing time with two other tight ends.
Cook had a 20-yard grab to keep alive a Tennessee drive late in the second quarter that resulted in a Rod Bironas field goal to make it 13-3 at halftime.
Cook's first catch of the game had almost ended in disaster, the ball popping loose when he was hit late by a second Falcons defender. "But I knew the whistle had already blown," Cook said.
A fumble wouldn't have been a memorable way to start his first game at the Georgia Dome, especially with so many family members and friends on hand. "I got 15 tickets, but a lot of other people got their own," he said.
Cook's previous trips to the Georgia Dome had been as a fan, when he would attend Falcons games with the family of a former Pro Bowl defensive back. "Scott Case's son was my best friend," Cook said.
Of course, playing at the Georgia Dome wasn't a first for the Cook family. Brother Jason, a fullback at Ole Miss, played in a preseason game for Baltimore against the Falcons and had a TD before being cut.
"He has one up on me with the touchdown," Jared said. "Hopefully the next time we play here, I can get one."