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Ryan, Falcons pound Titans
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Atlanta Falcons’ Daren Stone, left, and Michael Griffin exchange blows during a brief scuffle in the second quarter Friday in Atlanta. - photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA — One start, one win for Matt Ryan.

Ryan, making his first preseason start, opened the second half with a touchdown pass to give Atlanta the lead and the Falcons beat the Tennessee Titans 17-3 on Friday night.

Ryan, the third pick in the draft, continued his bid to start as a rookie. Ryan completed 15 of 21 passes for 102 yards with a 1-yard scoring pass to another rookie, Harry Douglas, and no interceptions.
Ryan called his debut as a starter “a lot of fun.”

“I thought we did a lot of good things as an offense, but I made a couple of poor throws toward the end of the first half,” Ryan said. “We were able to come out and score at the beginning of the third quarter, and that was a good way to end it.”

Another Atlanta rookie, Thomas Brown, scored on a 9-yard run with 3:22 left to add to the lead.

Ryan outplayed Tennessee starter Vince Young, the No. 3 pick in 2006. Young was 9-of-18 passing for 102 yards and an interception.

Ryan played the full first half, completing 8 of 11 passes for 47 yards, but he couldn’t produce a touchdown drive.

The biggest letdown for the Ryan-led offense came late in the first half.

Adam Jennings’ 38-yard punt return gave the Falcons (1-2 preseason) the ball at the Titans’ 16 with 1:15 left. Ryan’s passes for Laurent Robinson and Roddy White were too high to be caught in the end zone.

Jason Elam ended the disappointing possession by missing a 33-yard field goal attempt, leaving the score 3-3 at halftime.

Ryan led the Falcons on a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Running back Jerious Norwood’s 39-yard run to the 1 set up Ryan’s scoring pass to Douglas.

After making the catch, Douglas immediately pointed to Ryan, who left the field on a high note.

“I think he played well and he handled himself well against a good defense,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith.

Yet another Atlanta rookie, cornerback Chevis Jackson, intercepted a Young pass on the last play of the first quarter to end a long drive. Jackson grabbed a pass intended for Brandon Jones at the Falcons’ 25 and returned the ball 22 yards.

The Titans’ first turnover of the preseason set up a six-play drive that ended with Elam’s 39-yard field goal.

John Vaughn ended the Titans’ first drive with a 50-yard field goal. Young completed passes of 13 yards to Chris Johnson, 21 yards to Bo Scaife and 16 yards to Justin Cage.

The Titans (2-1) couldn’t maintain the momentum.

“Obviously, we just have to finish drives,” said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher. “We put drives together, but we weren’t finishing. We did some good things and had some opportunities, but we didn’t take advantage of them, mainly because we couldn’t catch the football.”

Titans running back LenDale White was held out with sore ribs. Johnson, a first-round pick, had 11 carries for 35 yards and two catches for 23 yards, all in the first half.

Kerry Collins replaced Young to open the second half.

Chris Redman, who finished last season as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, led a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. On third-and-goal from the 9, Brown ran left and then cut back right through the Tennessee defense for the score.

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