It's been said countless times before but it bears repeating: final scores in NFL preseason games mean nothing. While the Tennessee Titans scored the final 21 points to edge the Atlanta Falcons 24-17 Saturday night, the Falcons starters were in fine form.
Typically the third preseason game is when the starters get a lot of playing time, at least in the first half. Atlanta started off the game well as Matt Ryan completed 18 of his 23 passing attempts for 224 yards and two touchdown passes. The first Falcons touchdown came at the end of an 11-play, 79-yard drive in which return specialist Devin Hester scored on a 31-yard pass. Hester finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards.
Last season, Hester didn't record a single reception with the Bears, but Atlanta plans on using the speedy Hester in some of their three-and four-receiver sets. With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez last season, it makes sense to have another sure-handed man on the field for the Falcons. Matt Ryan definitely thinks so. "I think it's going to be a nice package for him, putting all four of those guys on the field at the same time," Ryan said after the game.
Atlanta's other touchdown came by way of Julio Jones. Early in the second quarter, Jones caught a short pass, broke a tackle, spun away from two additional defenders and hit the afterburners for a 52-yard TD reception . With Jones missing most of last season after suffering a broken right foot, this should give hope to Atlanta fans that Jones is ready for the start of this year's NFL season.
With one more preseason game before the regular season starts, expect the Falcons to have their reserves play the majority of the game, as the final preseason game decides who makes the 53-man roster. Atlanta will travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars Thursday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6pm ET.