ATLANTA — Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose first two drives ended with an interception and a fumble, recovered to lead a touchdown drive in the Titans’ 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason opener Friday night.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan completed all six passes for 86 yards on his only possession, including a 13-yard touchdown to Julio Jones.
With the assistance of Mariota’s early turnovers, the Falcons led 17-0 behind new coach Dan Quinn before the Titans pulled even at 24. Michael Ford’s 1-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter snapped the tie.
Mariota, the No. 2 overall draft pick, went 7 of 8 for 94 yards. Paul Worrilow returned Mariota’s fumble 14 yards for a touchdown.
The first two possessions provided a painful lesson for Mariota that games are different from practice.
Early in his first drive, Mariota’s short pass was intercepted by linebacker Justin Durant, whose 20-yard return set up a field goal.
On Tennessee’s next drive, Mariota was not hit when the ball slipped out of his hand before he could pass. Worrilow scooped up the loose ball and raced to the end zone.
It was the Mariota’s first look at a four-man defensive front. He has worked only against the Titans’ 3-4 scheme in practice.
He entered the preseason opener with an impressive streak of 186 passes without an interception in seven-on-seven and team drills at training camp.
The good news for the Titans was Mariota’s recovery on his third possession. He had two 17-yard completions to former Falcons receiver Harry Douglas and a 26-yard pass to running back Antonio Andrews to set up Dexter McCluster’s 6-yard scoring run.
That was all for Mariota. Backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger also threw an interception late in the first half, but only after he connected with Rico Richardson on a 30-yard touchdown pass.