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Coming off 1st loss of season, Atlanta Falcons visit Titans trying to keep pace in NFC South
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New Orleans Saints running back Khiry Robinson (29) is tackled by Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Kroy Biermann (71) during the second half of an Oct. 15 game in New Orleans. - photo by John Bazemore

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Atlanta coach Dan Quinn would have been much happier if his Falcons didn’t endure a long weekend following their first loss this season.

How tough was the wait?

“I would say personally very hurtful,” Quinn said.

Well, that 31-21 loss Oct. 15 in New Orleans ended what had been a perfect start for Atlanta’s first-year coach and dropped the Falcons (5-1) just off the undefeated pace being set by Carolina in the NFC South. Then Quinn had to wait three days before addressing his Falcons’ mistakes and turning their attention to Sunday’s road trip to Tennessee (1-4).

“Once it happened, we had to go through and talk about why it happened, and then past that we get right to the present moment, which is seeing how good we can get this week,” Quinn said.

If one loss hurt, imagine how the Titans feel. They’ve dropped four straight and have a league-worst eight-game home skid after being routed 38-10 by Miami. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is 1-10 in Nashville, and Tennessee is at risk of wasting a four-game home stand wrapped around the bye, their longest stretch without hitting the road since 1967.

Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said the Falcons obviously look at Tennessee as a possible easy win based on record. But the Titans need a win for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is keeping pace in the AFC South, where Tennessee is only a loss back of Indianapolis despite the woeful start.

“But we have a lot at stake as far as getting back on track and getting back in the division race,” Orakpo said. “It’s still wide open. We’re 1-4, and it’s crazy to still be in the thick of things in our division. This would be a great task for us to get back on track.”

Here are some things to watch between the Falcons and Titans:

MARIOTA’S OUT: Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota was declared out Friday as he recovers from the sprained MCL in his left knee hurt in the loss to Miami. The Heisman Trophy winner missed practice all week after being sacked five times and turning it over four times in that game. That means Zach Mettenberger, a sixth-round pick out of LSU last year, will start still looking for his first win after starting six of seven games he played as a rookie himself.

PROTECT THE BALL: The Falcons lost three fumbles to the Saints, giving them six turnovers after having only two in the first four games. Quinn called his team’s sudden turnover problem “a hard lesson for us to go through.” The Falcons also lost three turnovers in a 25-19 overtime win over Washington on Oct. 11. Quinn said the Falcons “played with fire” against the Redskins and “got burned” in their first loss.

HEY ANDY: Not only did these teams play in the preseason, but the Titans traded left guard Andy Levitre to the Falcons on Sept. 4 after replacing him with veteran Byron Bell. The Falcons love the seven-year veteran’s physical style and his ability to communicate with left tackle Jake Matthews and center Mike Person. Levitre has helped block for Devonta Freeman, who is second in the NFL with 505 yards rushing, and a league-high nine TDs rushing.

ACHING SECONDARY: Titans cornerback Perrish Cox also was declared out Friday with an injured hamstring, while safety Michael Griffin is dealing with a sore knee. That’s half of Tennessee’s starting secondary banged-up with Atlanta receiver Julio Jones coming to town and leading the NFC with 49 catches for 638 yards.

HELLO AGAIN: The Falcons opened their preseason with a 31-24 win over the Titans. Even though teams reveal little in the preseason, Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant said, “We’ve kind of got a feel for what they’re going to do. We’ll be ready for them.” Trufant said the preseason game “makes you that much more prepared. … It helps you play faster, so it’s a big help.”

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