NASHVILLE — Tony Gonzalez appeared ready for the season to start despite missing three weeks of training camp, but the same really couldn’t be said for the Atlanta Falcons regulas as a whole.
Atlanta couldn’t get more than field goals out of two first-quarter opportunities and the Tennessee Titans took over from their en route to a 27-16 victory Saturday night that dropped the visiting Falcons to 0-3 in the preseason.
Matt Ryan played one series into the second half, but couldn’t get the Falcons into the end zone. He was sacked three times and completed 11 of 20 passes for 138 yards — 81 of them coming on four catches by Julio Jones.
“I think we could have played a little better,” Ryan said. “We had some opportunities early, but we didn’t execute very well.”
Future Hall of Fame tight end Gonzalez, who was excused from training camp to spend family time in California, caught two early passes from Ryan for 21 yards in his first game action.
“He didn’t miss a beat,” Ryan said. “He might have been the most consistent one out there. He’s in great shape.”
Most of the Falcons’ starters will play little or none at all when the team concludes the preseason with a game against Jacksonville on Thursday at the Georgia Dome. The regular season opener is at New Orleans on Sept. 8.
Gonzalez caught a 7-yard pass from Gonzalez on the Falcons’ opening drive, which ended with a 27-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley. Steven Jackson, who rushed for 51 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes, had 36 of the 71 yards on the march.
The Falcons, who had nine first downs in the opening quarter to two for Tennessee, also had to settle for a field goal when they got the ball again after safety Thomas DeCoud recovered a fumble by quarterback Jake Locker at the Titans’ 47-yard line. Shelley, filling in for Matt Bryant, split the uprights this time from 31 yards.
But the free agent rookie from Alabama missed a 36-yard attempt early in the second quarter and Tennessee drove 64 yards in five plays to take a 7-6 lead. Nate Washington caught a 7-yard pass from Locker for the first touchdown scored against the Falcons’ defensive regulars in the preseason.
Two field goals by Rod Bironas pushed the lead to 13-6 at halftime as the Titans controlled the second quarter. The veteran hit from 39 and 53 yards, the last with 23 seconds remaining before intermission.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former starting quarterback for Buffalo, replaced Locker to start the second half and quickly connected with Michael Preston on a 56-yard bomb before hitting Justin Hunter from 3 yards out to make it 20-6.
Veteran Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel left the game in the first quarter with a thigh injury and second-round draft choice Robert Alford was beaten on the long pass to Preston.
But after a 32-yard field goal by Shelley, Alford picked off Fitzpatrick and the Falcons cut the Tennessee lead to 20-16 with a 41-yard TD pass from Davis to Darius Johnson late in the third quarter.
The Titans widened the lead again midway in the fourth quarter on Fitzpatrick’s 6-yard TD pass to Preston.
Notes: Defensive end Kroy Biermann sacked Locker twice and was in on six tackles during the first half. … Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had three tackles in his first action after missing the first two preseason games because of a badly dislocated finger. … Wide receiver Roddy White, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the first quarter of last week’s game at Baltimore, didn’t play. … Linebacker Stephen Nicholas also sat out. … Fullback Bradie Ewing started after missing the first two games. The 2012 draft choice out of Wisconsin missed all last season because of a knee injury. … Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who had been wearing No. 90, took the No. 50 previously worn by reserve linebacker Pat Schiller.