By Cedric Williams

The Atlanta Falcons went to Nashville for their game on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans with one goal in mind, returning home with a win by any means necessary. The Falcons, nor any NFL team for that matter, don’t care if a win comes pretty or ugly. Atlanta finds itself as a team trekking home with perhaps its ugliest win of the season.

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“We knew it was going to be a fight coming in and we were ready to go the distance today,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said in his press conference immediately after the game. “I love the way we finished at the halves, (Paul) Worrilow and (Robenson) Therezie having one as well. Those are exactly the types of finishes we want for our defense at the end of the half. We want to close out a game and that’s what we want to stand for.”

Atlanta closed out both halves in the same way, forcing key turnovers that prevented Tennessee from widening its lead in the first half and tying the score in the second. Therefore, we felt it appropriate to give the Falcons passing grades in nearly every aspect of their 10-7 win over the Titans.

Offense: B-

For the entire game, the Falcons’ offense outgained the Titans 378 yards to 256. Tailback Devonta Freeman became the first Atlanta rusher to have three straight 100-yard games since Michael Turner (2009) and Matt Ryan became the fifth fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 30,000 yards for his career (117 games). Only Dan Marino (114), Kurt Warner (114), Peyton Manning (115), and Aaron Rodgers (116) did it faster.

Yet, the Falcons put on a first half performance that produced no touchdowns; only three points to be exact. One drive that was particularly frustrating was a red-zone interception thrown by Ryan, which had the Atlanta offense looking like a group destined for a bad day at the office. It wasn’t until the third quarter when the Falcons took control, outgaining the Titans 134 yards to 35 and scoring what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard toss from Ryan to Julio Jones.

“We’ve got to fix what we’ve got going on,” Jones said. “We came out here to get a ‘W’ and we got the ‘W’, and it’s on to the (Tennessee Titans). It wasn’t pretty, but it just shows that we’re going to fight to the end.”

Defense: A-

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If it wasn’t for the one lapse in coverage, when Tennessee quarterback Zach Mettenberger found Kendall Wright for a 19-yard touchdown that gave the Titans a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the Falcon D would’ve earned itself an A+ on Sunday. Other than that, the defense was just brilliant; pretty much from start to finish.

The Falcons forced the Titans to punt on each of its first four possessions. After the touchdown, Robenson Therezie nabbed an interception deep in its own territory to keep Tennessee from adding to its 7-3 lead at halftime. In the second half, Atlanta forced three straight punts, a turnover on downs and Therezie’s game-clinching interception to stop the Titans from forcing overtime or winning.

“It certainly was about the ball,” Quinn said. “It ended up being even today. So for us having two opportunities to get interceptions that was huge for us. We know it makes it hard for us when we are not in the plus, but we ended up being at even, but I love the way that the finish came up at the end.”

Special Teams: C-

The Falcons didn’t really help or hurt themselves with special teams on Sunday, but they almost committed the latter when Matt Bryant missed a 47-yard field goal with 2:28 left in the game, setting up Tennessee with the final drive of the game. With the way the Falcon defense had been playing, the game would’ve basically been over if Bryant had nailed that kick. Instead, Atlanta had to make one more stand to preserve its win. It was fortunate for everyone in red and black that they were able to do so.

Coaching: B

Once again, the Atlanta coaching staff proved itself capable of making the necessary adjustments to find a way to put an opponent away. Not many thought a team with a 1-4 record and in the midst of a four-game losing streak, such as Tennessee, would be as tough a nut to crack, but Quinn and his staff never once took the Titans for granted. Despite its trouble on offense in the first half, Quinn had the Falcons ready for what might it’s toughest road battle so far this season.

Atlanta will be back at the Dome next Sunday for a matchup with the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs won just one game last season, but had themselves on the verge of their third win this season and a chance for a third win in a row if they could defeat the Falcons next week. The Falcons will follow that up with a game in San Francisco in two weeks before enjoying their bye week after that. Should Atlanta win those two games, it would go into its bye week with an 8-1 record.

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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at cedricwilliams510@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.