Six Points: Falcons vs. Titans
The Tennessee Titans close out a four-game homestand in search of their first win of the season at Nissan Stadium when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The Titans (1-4), enter having lost four straight, including a 38-10 defeat to the Miami Dolphins last week. Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota sprained his MCL in the defeat, and won’t play Sunday. Backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger will make his first start of the season.
The Falcons (5-1) are coming off their first loss of the season last week against the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta boasts the NFL’s fourth-ranked offense in terms of total yards, averaging 407.3 per game
Here are three keys to the game for both the Falcons and the Titans.
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1. Figure out the pass rushing issues
With Marcus Mariota sitting out for the Titans, the Falcons have a golden opportunity on their hands. The Falcons are tied for the fewest sacks in the league to this point with just seven, but getting pressure on Mettenberger could make a major difference in this game.
2. More touches for Devonta Freeman
Over the previous three weeks before the Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints, Freeman was averaging a ridiculous 29.3 touches per game (rushes and receptions combined). In the Week 6 loss to the Saints? Freeman received just 13 carries and eight catches. It was obvious that Freeman is still ready to produce at a ridiculously high level, as he turned those 13 carries into 100 yards, while tacking on 56 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. At this point, there’s no logical reason to shy away from running the offense through Freeman.
3. Don’t force the action in the passing game
The Falcons have done a great job this season of not forcing it to the likes of Julio Jones, or even forcing the passing game if it’s not working. This needs to continue against a Titans defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game at just 184. If the run game is working, Atlanta shouldn’t slow down, and should even turn to Tevin Coleman at the times when Freeman needs to breather. Atlanta has two talented runners, so there’s no need to continually attack one of the best passing defenses in the NFL.
1. Contain the Atlanta running game
The Titans enter the game with the fifth-worst run defense in the league, giving up an average of 129.6 yards per game on the ground. If Tennessee can’t slow down Freeman, who has scored nine touchdowns this season, it figures to be a long afternoon.
2. Pick a back and stick with him
Tennessee has employed a running-back-by-committee approach thus far, but in doing so, the team has failed to establish any sort of consistency at the position. As ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky pointed out earlier this week, no Tennessee running back has had more than 13 carries in one game. With the quarterback situation as it is this week, the Titans need to get the running game going. Ken Whisenhunt needs to decide which back he wants to feature this week and give him a steady dose of carries.
3. Limit explosive plays
Jones, who has been dealing with a hamstring issue most of the season, has cooled off slightly of late. However, he still remains a dangerous target for Matt Ryan and isn’t listed on the team’s injury report, indicating he’s healthy. The Titans have displayed a penchant for giving up big plays allowing five completions of 40 yards or more. That can’t happen against this Falcons offense.