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Titans start strong before mistakes catch up to them in 31-24 exhibition loss to Saints

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NEW ORLEANS — Zach Mettenberger watched as Justin Hunter corralled a pass in the middle of the Saints' defense Friday night and turned it into a 64-yard touchdown.

Then the former LSU quarterback pumped his right arm before motioning to the crowd in the Superdome, urging the fans to cheer on the road team.

The moment might just have been a look into the future for the Titans.

In a 31-24 loss to New Orleans, Mettenberger finished 20 of 25 for 269 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

"You've always got to prepare like you're the starter because you never know when you could go in," Mettenberger said. "Me being two plays away, I always got to be ready. Fortunately we prepared the right way and I was able to get a big play when I got in."

While Mettenberger's play bodes well for the future, the performance of Titans' starter Jake Locker provides hope for the present.

In his first extended playing time of the preseason, Locker went 8 of 11 for 75 yards and led Tennessee on a seven-play, 62-yard scoring drive in the first quarter.

"We weren't perfect, but there were a lot of good things about it," Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I liked the way the offense in general responded on the first series and went down and scored a touchdown."

For the Titans, who won their first preseason game over Green Bay in a rainstorm, there's still work to be done before they open the season.

The Saints' defense had five turnovers and four sacks. Offensively, New Orleans produced several long gains, including completions of 52 and 44 yards from Ryan Griffin to Joe Morgan.

PHOTO: Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

"Whenever you working with a new scheme with players, you've got to work through those things," Whisenhunt said. "Do you want it happen faster? Yes. To me it was more about mistakes. We've still got to learn some of the nuances of the defense."

The Titans were competitive early when both teams' starters were on the field.

Locker had a touchdown on a 4-yard touch pass along the sideline to Hunter, who made a leaping grab over cornerback Corey White.

Hunter was also on the receiving end of Mettenberger's first touchdown pass as a pro. Mettenberger entered the game after second-string QB Charlie Whitehurst was shaken up on a sack by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.

The crowd cheered the former LSU quarterback when he first took the field. Soon after, Mettenberger rifled a pass over the middle to Hunter, who raced away for a 64-yard score.

Mettenberger was also intercepted once and fumbled once. Hunter had four catches for 111 yards.

"I think we all understand what he can be," Whisenhunt said. "We've got to see that consistently and it was nice to see that tonight."

Undrafted rookie kicker Travis Coons made a 50-yard field goal for Tennessee.

Once of Tennessee's fumbles may have cost more than a turnover. Running back Shonn Greene, who has had right knee surgery twice, appeared to favor his right leg after being stripped by Vaccaro in the second quarter.

Luke McCown started for Drew Brees, who missed his second game while resting his sore abdomen, and was 12 of 20 for 117 yards. Griffin finished 13 of 19 for 179 yards with touchdown passes of 23 yards to Mark Ingram and 3 yards to Seantavious Jones.


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