ATLANTA – Now that’s more like it.
The Titans flew into the Peach State and looked, well, quite peachy in a 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Ten days after a dreadful performance in Jacksonville, the Titans jumped all over the Falcons early and then cruised to a huge win here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 18-of-27 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, with a 129.7 rating.
Running back Derrick Henry carried the ball 27 times for 100 yards.
Rookie receiver A.J. Brown had three catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns while receiver Corey Davis hauled in five catches for 91 yards and a score.
The Titans defense sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan five times and came up with several fourth down stops.
It all added up to a big win, which helped the Titans improve to 2-2 on the season.
“I think one thing that showed today was the culture of the Tennessee Titans,” safety Kevin Byard said. “When things might not have been looking great, we responded very well with a big win.”
Even better: On Sunday, division leaders Houston and Indianapolis both lost, which means the Titans are now tied for first in the AFC South at the quarter mark.
“We’re 2-2,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We’ve had some good snaps and some bad snaps, some we’d like to have back. But it felt great to come on the road and get a win, and we’ll continue to try and improve.”
The Titans got off to a fast start in this one.
The Titans jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Brown, who caught the ball in the middle of the field and made several Falcons miss while sprinting into the end zone.
After the Falcons answered back with a quick touchdown drive to make it 7-7, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run by Ito Smith, the Titans went back to Brown again for another score. Mariota engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive and capped it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brown, which made it 14-7.
“It feels good (to make plays),” Brown said. “But I have to keep working. I just have to keep my head down and stay humble and keep working.”
On the ensuing possession, Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey sacked Ryan, and he forced a fumble he recovered himself in the process. But the Titans weren’t able to cash it in for points.
It was one of two big plays for Casey, who combined with safety Kenny Vaccaro on a fourth-and-one stop late in the second quarter. Vaccaro got immediate penetration on the stop of Falcons running back Devonta Freeman before Casey gobbled him up.
The Titans made a lot of plays on defense in this one. In addition to Casey, Harold Landry had two sacks, Jayon Brown had a sack and defensive lineman Isaiah Mack and linebacker Rashaan Evans were credited with a ½ sack each.
The defensive unit also got three stops on fourth down.
“A lot of credit to our defense today,” Vrabel said. “There’s a lot of talent over there – a lot of really good skill players. Matt Ryan has gotten into great rhythm the last couple of weeks in the second half and we were able to hold them.”
The Titans stretched their lead to 17-7 on a 45-yard field goal by kicker Cairo Santos, and they kept coming.
Late in the second quarter, the Titans made it 24-7 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to Davis, which capped a six-play, 60-yard drive and ignited a “Let’s Go Titans!” chant at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We got rolling,” Henry said. “It was good to put some drives together and put some points on the board, and to get a win.”
The Falcons cut Tennessee’s lead to 24-10 on their opening possession of the third quarter on a field goal by kicker Matt Bryant.
But this would end up being a bounce-back day for Mariota, and the Titans.
“I approach every week the same – I don’t get too high with the highs, and I don’t get too low with the lows,” said Mariota, who has now thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions this season. “For me, I can always improve. I feel like we left some points out there. That’s just kind of the mentality I’ve always had. And if we can continue to get better we can score some more points and win some more games.”
The Titans face the Buffalo Bills next Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
“It was important because we wanted to finish the first quarter of the season at 2-2,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “It’s not where you want to be, but we’ll take it. We’re still in the race. We know we have to play better, but this locker room is going to stay together and ignore the noise no matter what happens – big wins or bad losses.
“I think this was our best game this year and we need to build on that heading into Buffalo.”