NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On a day when the top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft went head-to-head, the 33rd overall pick stole the spotlight.

Carolina‘s Bryce Young and Houston‘s C.J. Stroud have been starters since Week 1, but another rookie got his first chance Sunday. Titans quarterback Will Levis, who wasn’t drafted until the second round and didn’t take a snap in Tennessee’s first six games, made a spectacular debut, throwing for four touchdown passes in a 28-23 win over the Falcons.

“He was ballin’, huh?” running back Derrick Henry said. “He was playing out of his mind. It was good to see, because he works so hard. … We were all excited to see it come together for him and the offense, us being able to finish drives and make some special plays.”

Levis got his shot because starter Ryan Tannehill was sidelined with an ankle injury, and he made the most of the opportunity — no rookie playing in his NFL debut has had more touchdown passes in any game since 1965. He’s brand-new at playing in the NFL, but also smart enough to know not to dwell on even wins as special as this one.

“This is a dream come true, for sure,” Levis said after the game. “But what time is it right now? 3:48? I’ve got 12 minutes to celebrate before we’re on to Pittsburgh, as [Mike] Vrabel said. But I’ve dreamed of this moment as a kid, my entire life. Even just to touch the field in an NFL game, let alone get a win, is incredible.”

As well as Levis played, the Titans’ initial plan was to rotate him and second-year pro Malik Willis. On the opening drive, after Levis rushed for a first down on third-and-1, they brought in Willis, only to see the snap sail high and the Falcons recover. The next drive yielded three Levis completions for a total of nine yards, but then, late in the first quarter, the big plays started coming.

Veteran receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had zero touchdown in 47 targets in Tennessee’s first six games, sped down the left sideline and caught a 47-yard touchdown from Levis for a 7-3 lead. Two drives later, the two connected again on a crossing pattern that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown, but the Falcons stayed close, pulling within a 14-9 score late in the third quarter.

Then Hopkins got behind the Falcons defense again, and Levis found him for a 61-yard touchdown — Hopkins had scored three times in a game just one other time in 158 career games (in 2017) and hadn’t caught any in more than 11 months.

“Obviously, he’s a very talented quarterback,” Hopkins said. “He’s confident, plays the game like he’s been here before. [Offensive coordinator] Tim Kelly and those guys did a great job with him, preparing him for today.”

The Falcons answered that touchdown with another to pull again within five points, but Levis had one more touchdown in him — a bootleg to the right, throwing back to the left to find receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 33-yard score. Levis finished the day 19-for-29 for 238 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover.

The only time a quarterback making his first NFL start threw for more than four touchdowns was in 1965, when Gary Cuozzo had five for the Baltimore Colts. The only other debut with four touchdowns in the past 20 years was another Titans rookie, Marcus Mariota, in 2015.

And for a more immediate perspective, the Titans had totaled three passing touchdowns in their first six games this season, and Levis beat that in one afternoon.

“Not a bad debut,” Vrabel said as his team improved to 3-4. “Got some great efforts from receivers. Hop really got us off and going. … Not only did Will get some good help, the opportunities to move the ball downfield were there, and we hit them.”

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Could Sunday be the start of a new quarterbacking era for Tennessee? Tannehill is in his sixth year as starter, having taken the Titans to the playoffs three times, but his contract is up after this season, and Tennessee invested high draft picks to get Levis in April. It’s not likely that Tannehill would be dealt before Tuesday’s trade deadline, but Levis played well enough that he could be the Titans’ answer moving forward.

Tennessee had already established itself as sellers at the deadline, sending All-Pro safety Kevin Byard to the Eagles this past week for a pair of late-round draft picks. There could be more deals, potentially including Henry or other top players, but on a day when the Titans wore throwback Houston Oilers uniforms as a nod to their past, Levis’ emergence Sunday showed there is talent left for the future in Tennessee.

“I was just trusting what I saw,” Levis said. “We knew we’d get opportunities to go over the top on them. I just wanted to make the right decisions, and [Hopkins] was doing a good job of getting open.”

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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