Titans beat Rams 27-14, spoiling coach Jeff Fisher's return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marcus Mariota had every reason to struggle when the communicator device in the Tennessee quarterback's helmet quit working two plays into the first drive of his second preseason game.
Not a problem for the rookie.
Mariota turned in a clean performance in his home debut, Tennessee cornerback Perrish Cox returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown and the Titans beat St. Louis 27-14 on Sunday night to spoil Rams coach Jeff Fisher's return to town.
A week after Mariota was sacked, threw an interception and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, the No. 2 pick overall out of Oregon was 5 of 8 for 58 yards with no turnovers. Titans teammate Dexter McCluster dropped Mariota's pass in the end zone, while Rams safety Mark Barron had a chance at a would-be interception off the rookie.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't know what happened to the communicator device.
''It's one of those situations a lot of young quarterbacks will panic, but he didn't,'' Whisenhunt said. ''We had a couple miscues and that led to a couple situations that put us in long yardage deal son that first drive. He still made some plays and handled himself well. It's not something that you plan, but it was good to see him respond.''
Mariota said he realized he couldn't hear Whisenhunt through the speaker in his helmet and reverted to Pop Warner as he ran closer to hear the play call for the rest of the opening drive. The device worked fine after that.
''I'm sure it's one of those things that happens and you just have to work through it,'' Mariota said.
Tennessee's defense looked much improved against an offense that ranked 28th in the NFL last year. With Cox's interception, the Titans (1-1) finally stopped an opponent on the opening drive for the first time in six preseason games.
Nick Foles had a rough outing in three series for the Rams (0-2).
He was 3 of 7 for 18 yards with the Rams going three-and-out on their next two series with the quarterback St. Louis brought to town in the trade that sent Sam Bradford to Philadelphia. Case Keenum found Chris Givens for an 80-yard TD toss in the third quarter to avoid the shutout, and Sean Mannion connected with Malcolm Brown for a 54-yard TD in the final minute.
Mariota drove the Titans to the first of two field goals by Ryan Succop in his three drives and left with a 10-0 lead.
APPRECIATING FISHER: The Titans honored the man who is this franchise's winningest coach after more than 15 seasons as head coach with a video tribute during the first timeout, and fans gave Fisher a standing ovation in the stadium he helped open in 1999. Fisher waved to the fans and even peaked at the video board after some of his players told him he needed to watch.
''I have to extend my appreciation to the entire Titans organization for honoring me like they did,'' Fisher said. ''It was moving,'' Fisher said. ''I heard about it this week, but didn't know it was going to be to that extent. I appreciate their approach and their generosity.''
The best part?
''I thought it was great to come back and get that over with,'' Fisher said.
FREE-AGENT PAYOFF: Tennessee intercepted only one of Mariota's passes in three weeks of training camp. Cox, signed to a three-year deal this offseason, got the Titans' second interception in as many games. ''I was reading it, and he came off kind of slow, and I knew what route was coming right when he came off the ball,'' Cox said.
HOME SWEET ST. LOUIS: The Rams now finally get to go home for more than a quick trip after playing their first two games on the road with a joint practice with the Dallas Cowboys in California included. Foles said that isn't an excuse for not executing well, but he is looking forward to playing his first game in St. Louis.
''We can correct everything that happened tonight,'' Foles said.
REVAMPED LINE: The Titans started veteran Byron Bell at left guard and rookie Jeremiah Poutasi at right tackle, pushing Andy Levitre to the second-team. The changes should paid off early against a Rams defense that ranked 14th in the NFL against the run last season. Bishop Sankey, limited to 1.9 yards per carry in the preseason opener, ran six times for 45 yards, and the Titans outgained St. Louis 100-28 in the first quarter.
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