The Tennessee Titans have to get used to playing in front of people again.
The Titans debuted in their new Adelphia Coliseum before the largest crowd in franchise history Friday night, and they found themselves having to fight their emotions in beating the Atlanta Falcons 17-3 in an exhibition.
"It was probably too exciting," linebacker Joe Bowden said. "By the time we came out of the tunnel, I was tired. We were all yelling and carrying on. I needed some water because my throat was dry."
"Oh, man, I feel like we were playing in the Super Bowl," Titans safety Blaine Bishop said. "The fan support is unbelievable. The place is rowdy, and it is making all the difference in the world."
Coach Jeff Fisher, who guided the team through the past three seasons and playing before some of the NFL's worst crowds, said the opening was the result of a long, hard road.
"I was very, very impressed. The crowd was electric, everything was really, really big-time," Fisher said. "The players were so excited, at halftime and at the end of the game."
The Titans defense also responded, forcing five turnovers with four sacks. They got their first turnover, a fumble by Jamal Anderson, on the Falcons' first play of the game.
"We may be thinking we're really good and NFC champions, but no one cares what happened last year," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "We'd better get off our high horse and start playing."
Neil O'Donnell, starting at quarterback with Steve McNair sidelined by a stiff back, showed he has picked up the offense quickly since being signed last month. He completed nine of his first 11 passes and was 14-of-21 for 180 yards with one interception.
He had help from receiver Yancey Thigpen, his former teammate with the Pittsburgh Steelers. O'Donnell started three different drives by finding Thigpen for passes of 48, 16 and 10 yards, and Thigpen wound up with five catches for 117 yards.
"Without a doubt, I didn't want to stop," said Thigpen, who suffered a mild concussion on his final catch. "We wanted to come out and establish ourselves early, and we did."
The Titans led 10-3 at halftime, and O'Donnell set up Mike Archie's 1-yard run by hitting Thigpen on a 36-yard pass down to the Falcons' 1.,
Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler was sidelined just before kickoff with an injured hamstring. Chandler said he could have played if it was a regular season game.
That put Danny Kanell, bidding to be Chandler's backup, in at starter. He was spotty as he went 11-of-28 for 135 yards in leading the Falcons to only Morten Anderson's 35-yard field goal in the second quarter.
But Kanell wound up playing most of the game when Tony Graziani sprained his right knee when being sacked in the fourth quarter.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was on hand for the game and said he always felt the team, which has sold out three regular season games already, would thrive when the new stadium opened.
For owner Bud Adams, it was everything he wanted when he decided to leave Houston.
"We're at home now finally after four years," Adams said. "It was a tough road. We're here now. Nashville and the state of Tennessee has been great to us."
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