Rookie running back Bishop Sankey dives across the goal line for the game winning score.
Baseball analogies don’t usually crossover into football stories except in the case of the Tennessee Titans 24-17 come from behind win over the Atlanta Falcons in the third preseason game of 2014.
The Titans got a homerun on a 63 yard touchdown pass at the end of the second quarter and two triples in the second half to erase a 14 point deficit.
Matt Ryan and company jumped out to a 17-3 lead through much of the first half on the strength of two electrifying touchdown passes. On the first offensive drive of the game, the Falcons offense went trips left with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas drawing the attention of the defense. Facing a single defender on the left side return specialist Devin Hester demonstrated why he is always a threat to score. Hester caught a quick slant pass from Ryan and exploded, racing past the outstretched arms of safety Ben Pollard and cornerback Tommie Campbell.
“That's something we've seen during OTAs and during training camp,” said Ryan who finished the night 18-23 for 224 yards. “When you get him out onto the practice field, everyone has been very impressed. He showed what he is capable of doing, with the ball in his hands tonight."
Like Hester, Julio Jones showed there’s nothing wrong with his wheels. After months of rehab, Jones turned a routine 6 yard slant pass into a monstrous touchdown run. Jones shook free of cornerback Coty Sensabaugh’s grasp and sprinted to the endzone aided by a huge downfield block from Douglas.
Neither play sat well with Titans safety Ben Pollard. “Two slants that got 14 points and that kills you,” said Pollard. “One of the biggest things right now, we have to learn from our mistakes. We really do. It's the third preseason game and it's continuing to happen.”
The touchdown was the last score for the Falcons of the game despite having the starters including Ryan in for the first series of the third quarter.
Tennessee’s comeback started at the end of the second. Jake Locker and Nate Washington hooked up for a 63 yard touchdown on the first play following a defensive timeout by the Falcons.
"There's 11 guys out there, not just one giving up a big play," remarked Falcons head coach Mike Smith.
Washington’s play shifted the momentum to the visitor’s sideline. “Jake (Locker) made a good read and a good throw,” said Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt. “We grew as a team from that standpoint.”
And grow they did.
The Titans reeled off two more field goals to set up the winning drive in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger led the Titans on a 9-minute, 13 play - 74 yard drive to complete the comeback. Rookie running back Bishop Sankey (Univ. of Washington) capped the drive diving across the goal line. Sankey, who finished with 44 yards on 16 carries, made it a true 7-point lead with a second dive into the endzone over the right side.
The redzone curse that has plagued the Falcons ever since the 2012 NFC Championship game against the Seahawks returned to thwart at least a potential game tying drive. With first and 10 at the 12 and 2:00 minutes on the clock, the Falcons couldn’t manage a first down let alone a touchdown. Backup quarterback Sean Renfree’s fourth and two pass intended for wide receiver Julian (not Julio) Jones went through, the rookies’ hands.Notes of Interest
In the battle of the trenches, the Falcons offense gave up two sacks on the night and the Titans three sacks. Ryan and backup TJ Yates were each sacked once. Locker was sacked twice and Mettenberger once.
Surprisingly, both teams took care of the ball. That’s right, there were no turnovers in a pre-season game.
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