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Rookies hook-up late in Titans win

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans gave up one touchdown on a
kickoff return, another on a long run. The kickers struggled,
missing two field goals and an extra point.

This being the preseason, the Titans still managed to win.

Shane Boyd threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie O.J.
Small with 1:28 remaining that gave Tennessee a 24-21 over the
Atlanta Falcons on Friday night.

The Falcons showed off their big-play capability. Rookie DeAndra
Cobb scored on a 101-yard kickoff return and T.J. Duckett had a
72-yard touchdown run.

"Sure, it catches everybody's attention," Cobb said. "But I'm
kind of down because we didn't get the win."

Tennessee is letting two kickers battle for the job. Neither
distinguished himself on this night. Rob Bironas missed field goal
attempts of 37 and 44 yards, while Ola Kimrin was wide right on an
extra point.

Combined with Cobb's return, it wasn't a good night for the
Tennessee special teams.

"Of course ... I'm concerned," coach Jeff Fisher said. "They
were told exactly what to do on kickoff special team and couldn't
get it down. A lot of the young guys that we want to participate
this year, they are going to have to pick it up for the team."

Michael Vick played nearly the entire first half for the
Falcons, looking especially good on the opening possession. He
hooked up with fullback Justin Griffith on a 23-yard pass, then
broke off a 21-yard run when no one was open. After Warrick Dunn
ran for 18 yards, Vick lobbed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian
Finneran.

"Man, chasing him is like chasing thin air," Tennessee
linebacker Keith Bullock said of Vick. "I got a little taste of
the Mike Vick experience tonight."

Steve McNair was sharp for the Titans (1-1), though he was
facing a Falcons defense that didn't have five injured starters.
The Tennessee quarterback completed 14-of-19 passes for 137 yards,
including an 11-yard touchdown to Chris Brown.

"We got in a rhythm," McNair said. "It was a good feeling."

With third- and fourth-stringers on the field, the Falcons (2-1)
made one goal-line stand in the final period but couldn't stop the
Titans on fourth-and-goal from the 4.

Boyd, hoping to land a spot as the Titans' third quarterback,
flipped a pass to Small, who fought off rookie cornerback Jonte
Buhl to make the catch.

"It was a great jump for the whole offense," said Boyd, a
rookie from Kentucky. "When my number is called again, it will be
time to do it again."

Cobb, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, took a major step
toward making the Falcons with his electrifying return in the first
quarter. He took the kickoff, sent three players flying with a
cutback at the Falcons 30 and found a huge gap on the left side.

"My guys wiped out the wedge and the back side was clear,"
Cobb said. "I made the cutback and it was open. I only had the
kicker to beat. That was running through my head -- don't get
tackled by the kicker."

Duckett, the battering ram in the NFL's best rushing offense
last season, didn't look like a short-yardage specialist in the
third quarter. On a routine-looking run, he slipped through a hole
and broke free down the middle to give the Falcons a 21-16 lead.

Brown, who sat out the Titans' first preseason game, also rushed
for 45 yards on 10 carries. He had the stage all to himself with
newcomer Travis Henry sitting out because of a turf toe injury.

"I think we're more versatile when I'm out there," Brown said.

Kimrin made a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter, and
second-string quarterback Billy Volek directed a 94-yard touchdown
drive that gave the Titans their first lead in the final minute of
the first half.

Volek converted three times on third down -- the first two on
short passes, the third a 29-yard pass to Brandon Jones, who was
tripped up at the Atlanta 1. Jarrett Payton powered over for the
touchdown on the next play.

The Falcons lost a couple of players during the game.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was ejected after he delivered a
left-right combination to the helmet of Tennessee receiver Courtney
Roby. Hall took offense at Roby's blocking technique after Tyrone
Calico hauled in a pass along the sideline.

Falcons receiver Peerless Price went out in the third quarter
with bruised ribs and a concussion. Formerly the team's No. 1 pass
catcher, Price is now battling just to make the team.

Game notes
Falcons CB Jason Webster was a late scratch because of a
sore hamstring. Atlanta also played without defensive starters
Keith Brooking, Patrick Kerney, Ed Hartwell and Brady Smith. ...
Roby led the Titans with six catches for 84 yards. ... Falcons
backup QB Matt Schaub struggled: 5-of-15 passing for 47 yards with
an interception.

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