Wiedmer: Falcons, Mocs and Titans give new meaning to lost weekend

Wiedmer: Falcons, Mocs and Titans give new meaning to lost weekend

August 28th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

UTC's Derek Mahaffey (5) is blocked by Jacksonville's Tyler Scozzaro (78). The University of Chattanooga Mocs met the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff at the Carmton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama on August 26, 2017.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

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If you hoped your favorite college or professional football team from this area could relieve some of the stress of daily life this past weekend, well, you might need your doctor to write that Xanax prescription in a hurry. Like yesterday.

Geez. Puh-leeze. Arizona Cardinals 24, Atlanta Falcons 14? Chicago Bears 19, Tennessee Titans 7? And last of all — but by far worst of all, because the Falcons' and Titans' defeats were only exhibition in nature — Jacksonville State Gamecocks 27, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs 13?

Could someone wake me when basketball season starts?

OK, so if you live and die with the Falcons, you can try to ignore their 0-3 exhibition record heading into Thursday's preseason finale against Jacksonville inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That's your right, and you may not be wrong.

But Atlanta was 3-1 in the preseason a year ago on its way to the Super Bowl, and nothing destroys teams more completely at any level than the misconceived notion they can turn it on and off when needed. The Falcons will probably beat the Jaguars, just as they did a year ago. That said, the regular season is now less than two weeks away, and the men of the Big Peach haven't tasted victory since last season's NFC title game against Green Bay inside the Georgia Dome.

Instead, whether they want to admit it or not, they've looked a whole lot more like a team still attempting to shake its Super Bowl hangover after blowing the biggest lead in that game's 51-year history.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan even sounded like someone more hopeful than certain that he and his teammates — especially those on offense — can quickly turn around their play come the regular-season opener on Sept. 10.

"Wish we could have played better," he said of the team's first action inside their $1.6 billion playpen. "Hopefully we'll play better during the regular season."

There is one item Ryan mentioned that bears repeating. When you've spent your entire home career inside the Georgia Dome, you get used to certain sight lines and angles. Ryan noted how that now starts over. He didn't seem concerned, but it might explain why he had one pass intercepted and another interception dropped.

Regardless, it was all anemic enough to have the Atlanta Journal-Constitution grade the Falcons' performance thusly: Run offense — D; Pass offense — D; Run defense — C; Pass defense — C; Special teams — F; Coaching — F.

The Titans, of course, couldn't use a new stadium for an excuse in their loss to Da Bears. Though Nissan Stadium has changed names a few times, it's been the same structure for almost two decades.

Yet the many-hues-of-blue crew acted as if it had never seen the place before Sunday. Titans coach Mike Mularkey had to play his starters the entire third quarter before they finally scored their lone touchdown of the afternoon on the first play of the final period.

With only Thursday's game at Kansas City left in the preseason, the Titans look uncomfortably inconsistent for a team on the cusp of the playoffs last season. At least they have that one exhibition win over a Cam Newton-less Carolina Panthers squad.

And oh how UTC wishes it had had its Football Championship Subdivision version of Newton — fifth-year senior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield — against Jax State. Instead, he began serving a four-game, NCAA-mandated suspension for academic mistakes.

If this is anything more than a single course gone wrong — given that Bennifield is scheduled to graduate in December — it would seem to fall to the student-athlete rather than an administrative oversight in terms of having him drop a course or take a summer school course.

But this is also a backhanded compliment to UTC. After all, would something like this ever have been allowed to happen to a key football player or men's basketball player at the University of North Carolina?

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was asked about his performance against Chicago.

"It was all right," he said. "Not to the level that I expect myself to play."

For fans of the Falcons, Mocs and Titans, this entire weekend wasn't played at the level expected of these teams in what is supposed to become a playoff season for each.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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