ATLANTA — After the first look at his new offense against another team, the best news for first-year head coach Arthur Smith was the dismal results for the Atlanta Falcons didn't count.
Matt Barkley and Logan Woodside each threw a touchdown pass in the first live test of their backup quarterback competition, helping the Tennessee Titans beat the Falcons 23-3 on Friday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
The Titans held Atlanta to 139 yards and six first downs in the debut for Smith, Tennessee's former offensive coordinator. Feleipe Franks and AJ McCarron, the contenders to back up veteran Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, combined to complete only seven passes for 52 yards.
"Thankfully, those don't go on the record books," Smith said, adding, "We didn't do enough to help AJ."
The Titans' quarterbacks had more success.
Woodside started, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Batson in the second quarter and finished 10-of-15 for 84 yards.
"I wanted to give him a good ball, and he went up and made a good play," Woodside said about Batson's score.
Barkley had third-down completions of 14 and 15 yards to Mason Kinsey on a field-goal drive early in the second half. Barkley's 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Miller Forristall in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
"Quarterbacks, in my experience, throw to guys that they trust because they know they're going to be open and they're going to be where they're supposed to be," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Barkley's drive-extending completions to Kinsey. "We came up with some huge conversions in the second half."
Barkley was 5-of-8 passing for 54 yards. Neither Titans quarterback threw an interception, though Woodside was sacked three times.
Each team held out its key playmakers. Atlanta rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 overall selection in the NFL draft, was in uniform but did not play. Smith said the decision to hold out Pitts "wasn't too difficult" and was a sign the former Florida standout has been impressive in training camp.
"Kyle is right on schedule," Smith said. "If we felt he was behind, we probably would have put him out there."
It was a unique debut for Smith. His first game as a head coach came against the team that employed him for 10 years as an assistant, including the past two leading the offense.
Smith had hugs and handshakes for some of his former players during pregame warmups.
"You spend a lot of time with those guys," he said. "You wish them well. ... It was great, but I'm focused on the Falcons and getting the team better and see if we can improve next week."
Earlier in the week, Smith said the game against the Titans would provide "a good evaluation for us because I know what we're up against." The results were not encouraging.
McCarron was 5-for-12 for only 36 yards, and he was intercepted by Titans linebacker David Long early in the second quarter.
A 56-yard punt return by Tennessee's Chester Rogers to Atlanta's 14 set up the first of two first-half field goals by Tucker McCann.
The Titans held out starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. None of the four traveled with the team, eliminating Jones' chance to return to his NFL home of his first 10 seasons before his trade to Tennessee on June 6.
Ryan, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and running back Mike Davis were among key Falcons who did not play.
Franks was Atlanta's surprise rushing leader with five carries for 75 yards, including a 52-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. The former Florida and Arkansas quarterback had back-to-back runs of 11 and 10 yards to help set up Younghoe Koo's 42-yard field goal to open the second half. Koo was wide left from 55 yards after Franks' 52-yard run.
Franks struggled to move the ball through the air, finishing 2-of-10 for 9 yards.
Titans running back Darrynton Evans, who started, hurt his knee in the first quarter and did not return after he was listed as questionable. Defensive end Travon Coley hurt his left foot in the second quarter, and after walking off the field with some help, he was listed as questionable and did not return.
Two other defensive players, safety Brady Breeze and linebacker B.J. Bello, left the game in the second quarter with ankle injuries. Breeze was helped to the sideline and then carted to the Tennessee locker room.
Atlanta defensive linemen Ta'Quon Graham (hand) and John Cominsky (head) left the game in the third quarter.
The Titans will play another preseason road game against an NFC South opponent on Aug. 21 when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the reigning Super Bowl champions. Atlanta will have joint practices with the Miami Dolphins at their facility next week and then play against them on Aug. 21.
NFL teams are playing just three preseason games instead of four this year as the regular season expands by one game to 17. Atlanta's opener is against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 12, and the Titans host the Arizona Cardinals the same day.