WR Devin Hester found the end zone for the second straight game, catching a 31-yard pass from QB Matt Ryan. Hester split two Tennessee defenders en route to the score that put the Falcons up 7-0 on the opening drive of the game.
Hester has recorded 27 receptions of 25-or-more yards in his career, including eight touchdowns. He has scored 14 career receiving touchdowns in addition to his 19 return scores. Hester leads the Falcons with two touchdown grabs in the 2014 preseason.
Starting strong has been a staple of Head Coach Mike Smith’s offense since arriving in Atlanta in 2008. The Falcons own a 45-16 record in games when they score first (regular season) under Smith. Since 2008, Atlanta’s 262 first possession points lead the NFL. Additionally, the club has ranked in the top seven in terms of first possession scoring in each of the last six seasons, including leading the NFL with 51 first possession scores in 2012.
Atlanta’s first drive lasted 11 plays covering 79 yards in 6:22 and culminated in Hester’s 31-yard touchdown. The Falcons have thrived on long drives over the last six seasons, totaling 176 drives of 10-plays or longer with 142 scores and an NFC leading 76 touchdowns. During that span, Atlanta’s 80.7 scoring efficiency on 10-play drives ranks tied for the NFL lead. Last season, the Falcons averaged nearly eight plays, 3:43 and 60.7 yards per scoring drive.
Hester continued his explosive evening with a 47-yard kickoff return that set up a Falcons touchdown drive. It was Hester’s longest return of the preseason and the longest return by a Falcon since RB Jacquizz Rodgers broke a 77-yard return in the 2012 season opener at Kansas City.
Ryan connected with WR Julio Jones for a 52-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter. The duo linked up for their first touchdown of 2014 when Jones caught a short pass near the sideline, made two defenders miss, and outpaced a third to the end zone. Since 2011, Jones has caught 20 touchdowns which ranks 19th in the NFL despite the fact that he missed 11 games in 2013.
Jones has proven to be one of the most explosive players in the NFL in his young career posting 31 receptions of 25-or-more yards, including eight touchdowns. He became the first player in NFL history to post a touchdown catch of 80-or-more yards in each of his first three seasons with a career-long 81-yard touchdown catch in Week 2 of the 2013 season.
Ryan finished the game with 224 passing yards on 18 of 23 passing (78.3 percent) with two touchdowns and a 136.2 passer rating. His 78.3 completion percentage was on pace with the top passing performances of his career. Ryan has completed 75 percent or more of his passes 15 times in his six seasons, including four games with a completion percentage of 80-or-better.
Ryan completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards (78.3 percent) with two touchdowns and a 136.2 quarterback rating in the first half while helping Atlanta to a 17-10 halftime lead.
Hester finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards (14.0 yards per catch) with one touchdown. His 56-yard output was his highest receiving total since catching five passes for 39 yards against Minnesota (11/25/12) as a member of the Chicago Bears.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers continued to show his versatility, totaling 64 yards on 13 touches (4.9 yards per touch). He caught five passes for 31 yards while adding eight rushes for 33 yards. The fourth-year runner from Oregon State has produced 1,830 total offensive yards and eight total touchdowns in his career.
The Falcons boasted six players with 30-or-more receiving yards, including Jones (63), Hester (56), WR Roddy White (34), WR Geraldo Boldewijn (33), RB Devonte Freeman (33), and Rodgers (31).
Freeman finished the game with 44 total yards on eight touches. In the preseason, he leads the team with 101 receiving yards and 92 rushing yards. The rookie from Florida State has compiled 193 yards on 26 touches and is averaging a healthy 7.4 yards per touch.
LB Paul Worrilow led the first team defense with six total tackles (three solo) in one half of work. Worrilow also added a seven-yard sack of QB Jake Locker on the Titans second drive. The second-year man out of Delaware notched two sacks as an undrafted rookie in in 2013.
Courtesy Matt Haley / Football Communications Coordinator / Atlanta Falcons