ATLANTA — The Falcons held on for the win, which was the most important thing.
They still don’t look like the same team as a year ago.
Roddy White had seven receptions for a season-high 147 yards and Atlanta fended off a comeback led by rookie quarterback Jake Locker, beating the Tennessee Titans 23-17 Sunday.
The defending NFC South champion Falcons (6-4) were solid but hardly spectacular, struggling to finish drives and settling for three short field goals by Matt Bryant. They had to sweat it out at the end after Locker, taking over for the injured Matt Hasselbeck, nearly led an improbable comeback.
“We made it a little harder than it needed to be,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “There’s a number of things we need to address, that we need to get fixed.”
At least the Falcons shook the hangover from their stunning overtime loss to New Orleans the week before. The Saints prevailed 26-23 after Smith made a much-debated decision to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory. Michael Turner was stuffed, and the Saints kicked the winning field goal.
But, as they’ve done so many times under Smith, the Falcons bounced back. They improved to 16-3 after losses since their coach took over in 2008.
“It starts at the top,” said Ryan, who completed 22 of 32 for 316 yards. “In this league, you’re going to have some tough losses. You need to move on from that.”
Atlanta jumped out to a 13-0 lead on Ryan’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez and Bryant’s first two field goals. Turner, who rushed for 100 yards, stretched the lead to 20-3 with a 4-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the second half. But Turner’s fourth-quarter fumble deep in Tennessee territory allowed the Titans (5-5) to get back in it.