ST. LOUIS (AP) — After getting burned for an 83-yard touchdown pass on the first play, the Tennessee Titans’ defense stood fast. The offense thrived without holdout Chris Johnson.
Steven Jackson was limited to 10 yards on six carries in his preseason debut and Sam Bradford had no other big plays in the first half and got banged around a bit, needing the backups to rally for a 17-16 victory over the Titans on Saturday night.
The Rams (2-0) scored 33 points in the preseason opener against the Colts but, after getting Tennessee (1-1) to bite on play action on Bradford’s 83-yarder to a wide-open Brandon Gibson for a quick 7-0 lead, new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had no follow-up with the first stringers.
Josh Brown kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the Rams the victory.
St. Louis opened with three tight ends and Jackson the lone back on a play that easily topped the Rams’ longest play last season, a 49-yard reception by Jackson, the lone suspense coming when Gibson stumbled at the 35. The rest of the half, St. Louis totaled just 70 yards on 27 plays.
Rookie Jamie Harper, third on the Tennessee depth chart behind Johnson and Javon Ringer (hamstring) had 83 yards on 11 carries in the half. The highlight was a 46-yarder on a cutback run, and he scored for the second straight week.
Tennessee starter Matt Hasselbeck was sharp, going 7 for 9 for 74 yards. Hasselbeck was shaken up on his final play when Brady Poppinga rolled into his legs after a pass, but after walking off didn’t need treatment on the sideline.
Jackson missed most of two practices with hip soreness this week, but said it was just a precaution. He had trouble finding holes behind a line that had seldom-used Hank Fraley at guard in place of guard Jacob Bell and Donnie Jones punted eight times, four in each half.
The Rams’ Donnie Avery (knee) played for the first time since last preseason and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Feeley in the third quarter that cut the gap to 16-14.
Jake Locker threw a 29-yard completion to Jared Cook to the 5 on his first snap to set up Rob Bironas’ third field goal of the half. Two of them were chip shots after the Titans stalled at the 7 and 5.
Alterraun Verner’s interception on Bradford’s throw in traffic intended for Mike Sims-Walker set up Harper’s touchdown run that put the Titans up 10-7 in the first quarter. Bradford was hit hard on consecutive plays in the second quarter, getting blind-sided by blitzing cornerback Cortland Finnegan and then going down after William Hayes grabbed him by the ankles.
Titans defensive end Jason Jones was carted off the field at the start of the second quarter with a sprained left knee sustained on the 83-yard touchdown. Jones was back on the sideline in the second half wearing a brace.
Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis made his preseason debut and tackled Harper for a 1-yard gain on the Titans’ first play. Laurinaitis, who missed the opener with a pectoral injury, also had a sack.
NOTES — The Titans held out WR Kenny Britt (sore right hamstring) ... Rookie DT Karl Klug, a fifth-round pick, made his second start for Tennessee. Sen’Derrick Marks returned to practice this week from shoulder surgery in March and isn’t expected to play until the fourth preseason game. ... The Rams had seven penalties for 64 yards, a step back from the preseason opener when they were whistled only twice for 14 yards.