ST. LOUIS – One last time, Jeff Fisher said it was just the next game on the schedule, ignoring all those familiar faces on the other sideline. Mike Munchak, too, noting he's not one to socialize before games.
Occasionally, there were reminders it was a game, and a reunion, too.
"When I saw Coach on the screen because I was looking up to see the replay, I did realize that 'Oh yeah, Coach Fish is on the other side,'" Munchak said after the Tennessee Titans' 28-21 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
The matchup had connections galore, even if, as Fisher noted, Tennessee had just 16 players remaining from his last season in 2010.
It definitely meant a lot to some of them.
"If you can get any closer to a Super Bowl without it being a Super Bowl, that's what it was for me," said Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, in his second year with St. Louis since leaving Tennessee. "It was staying up late and watching extra film and doing everything I could to prepare myself."
Rams tight end Jared Cook, who tied the score in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard catch, is a former Titans player. He's just one of many with ties on both sides.
Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey really wanted to beat some ex-teammates.
"This was a game for some bragging rights," Casey said. "They were talking some trash to us. They wanted to win and we wanted to win. We did and that's good."
"We worked, we came back on a short week against a good opponent, and didn't get it done," Fisher said.
Five reasons why the Titans ended a three-game losing streak coming off their bye week and the Rams lost their third in a row:
NO STATS, JUST WINS: Titans quarterback Jake Locker was 13 for 23 for 185 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions, pedestrian numbers. He'll take the bottom line. "Everybody is good. You're going to have games where you look at the stat line and you're like 'mediocre,' but when you look over and see a 'W' next to it that makes all those things feel better," Locker said.
DEFENSE REGRESSES: Six days after the Rams held Seattle to 135 yards, Chris Johnson put up more by himself with 150 yards on 23 carries. The Titans and Rams each totaled 363 yards, a big step back for St. Louis. "They're correctable things but you can't be saying these things are correctable in Week 9," defensive end Chris Long said. "We can't be one team one week and another team another week."
TEAM UNITY: Johnson's first three seasons with the Titans, running backs and offensive linemen met together with position coaches after practice on Thursdays. At Johnson's behest, they returned to that tradition. Then they put up a season-best 198 yards rushing. "I don't know why we got away from it but I think it helped us," Johnson said. "We all talked, we all got on the same page. It's a small, minor thing but it worked."
RUNNING RAMS: After four games, the Rams were last in the league in rushing and averaging just 47 yards. There's been a noticeable improvement since rookie Zac Stacy took over at running back. They're averaging 133 yards rushing in the last five games, including back-to-back 100-yard games by Stacy. "Zac's been great. I think he's been the highlight of our team for a good few weeks now," receiver Austin Pettis said. "He's been running very hard. He kind of just goes there and doesn't say much at all. He's just a worker. That's something we definitely needed on this team."
STREAKING STATS: Johnson and Stacy both scored their first two touchdowns rushing, and Stacy's were the first on the ground all year for the Rams. The Titans ran for three touchdowns altogether, matching their season total entering the game. Johnson entered with 115 carries, the most in the NFL without a TD, and Stacy had been second with none in 76 carries. Titans wide receiver Nate Washington's streak with at least one catch come to an end. Titans free safety Michael Griffin missed the first game of his career with a right quadriceps injury, ending a string of 103 consecutive starts.
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