They still had to sweat it out at the end.
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.
Locker took over late in the third quarter after Matt Hasselbeck went out with a sprained right elbow, having endured an ineffective day even before he was hurt.
The youngster hooked up with Nate Washington on a pair of touchdown passes that made a game of it, but the Falcons managed to run out the clock after Matt Ryan completed a third-and-6 pass to Harry Douglas that was barely enough for the first down.
Atlanta (6-4) jumped out to a 13-0 lead on Ryan’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez and a pair of short field goals by Matt Bryant. Michael Turner 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.
The Falcons were solid if unspectacular, while the Titans simply made too many mistakes to win on the road for the second week in a row. Tennessee was 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 of Bryant’s three field goals.
The Falcons were coming off a 26-23 loss to the Saints, who prevailed in overtime after Atlanta coach Mike Smith made a much-debated decision to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory. New Orleans stuffed Turner for no gain and kicked a game-ending field goal four plays later.
Smith and his players insisted that game was behind them, and they got 100 yards rushing out of Turner and 316 yards passing from Ryan.
Then there’s White, who was leading the NFL in dropped passes (nine) and personal fouls by an offensive skills player (three). He dropped another one against the Titans but more than made up for it with his longest reception of the season, a 43-yarder that set up Turner’s touchdown. White also took a short pass for a 32-yard gain, leading to Bryant’s final field goal and a 23-3 lead that looked safe, especially when Hasselbeck went out.
But Locker rallied the Titans. On his third snap, he threw a deep pass to Washington, who came down with the ball and got away from two defensive backs for a 40-yard touchdown.
The Falcons were driving for the clinching score when Turner had the ball knocked loose at the Tennessee 8 by Colin McCarthy. Will Witherspoon fell on the ball, and Locker guided Tennessee on a 14-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 4-yard scoring pass to Washington with 3:06 remaining.
But the rookie didn’t get a chance to complete the comeback.
Hasselbeck had a forgettable day, going 13 of 25 for 124 yards. Locker finished 9 of 19 for 140 yards. Chris Johnson was totally stifled after his best game of the season, a 130-yard effort against Carolina. He was held to a season-low 13 yards on 12 carries, his longest gain going for only 6 yards.
Gonzalez became just the 13th player in NFL history to go past 13,000 yards receiving. He finished with six catches for 74 yards.