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 Titans 23-17 Sunday.
The defending NFC South champion Falcons were solid but hardly spectacular, struggling to finish drives and settling for three short field goals by former Buc 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."
Locker took over late in the third quarter after Hasselbeck sprained his right elbow, having endured an ineffective day even before he was hurt.
The youngster hooked up with Nate Washington on two touchdown passes that made a game of it, but the Falcons managed to run out the clock after Matt Ryan completed a third-down pass to Harry Douglas that was barely enough for the first down.
At least the Falcons shook the hangover from their stunning overtime loss to New Orleans the week before. The Saints prevailed 26-23 in the crucial division game 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.
The Falcons improved to 16-3 after losses since Smith took over as coach in 2008.
"It starts at the top," said Ryan, who was 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 took 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 run on the opening possession of the second half. But Turner's fourth-quarter fumble deep in Tennessee territory allowed the Titans to get back in it.
But Tennessee simply made too many mistakes to win on the road for the second week in a row. The Titans were penalized 10 times — two of which came on third down to extend Atlanta scoring drives — and Hasselbeck threw an interception that led to the first Atlanta field goal.
Plus, Chris Johnson had one of the worst games of his career in what has already been a hugely disappointing season. He followed a 130-yard effort against Carolina with a season-low 13 yards on 12 carries, his longest gain going for only 6 yards.