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Published September 17, 2015
Cortland Finnegan ran toward the stands in celebration after an interception.
Jared Cook darted across the end zone to catch a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown pass, then spiked the ball toward the stands in celebration.
When it was all over, though, coach Jeff Fisher and the rest of the former Titans now on the St. Louis Rams suffered a 28-21 loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
Chris Johnson ran for a season-high 150 yards and his first two rushing touchdowns of the season, including the winning 19-yarder with 2:54 remaining.
"They were excited about the opportunity," Fisher said. "They're pros, though. They don't do anything differently week to week. I think this one probably at the end of the day, it's probably going to last a little longer, hurt a little bit more because it was important to them."
Fisher, who won 147 games in 16 seasons as the Titans' coach, insisted there were no heightened emotions on his part for his first time facing his former employers.
"This is another week for me, and I've got Indy this week," he said. "This is another opponent. We worked, we came back on a short week against a good opponent and didn't get it done."
The Rams drove to the Tennessee 26 in the final minute, but Kellen Clemens — making his second start in place of injured starter Sam Bradford — threw two straight incompletions to Austin Pettis to end the game. Six days earlier, St. Louis (3-6) couldn't score from the 1-yard line on the last play of a 14-9 loss to Seattle.
"We've got to try to avoid throwing the ball at the end zone the last play of the game to win or tie like we have the last couple of weeks," Fisher said. "That means you've got to play better the first three quarters."
Clemens' 10-yard TD pass to Cook — a former Tennessee first-round draft pick — tied it at 21 with 6:15 to play, and St. Louis got the ball back on Rodney McLeod's interception.
But Clemens had the ball knocked loose on a sack by Jurrell Casey, and Johnson raced untouched around the right end for the decisive score on the next play.
"Unfortunately it put our defense in a very difficult situation," Clemens said. "It's a mistake that can't be made and unfortunately I made it."
Clemens completed 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
The Titans (4-4) snapped a three-game losing streak and won after their bye against a team on short rest. The 100-yard game was Johnson's first of the season and he ended up with his highest rushing output since Week 7 last season against Buffalo, when he had 195 yards. In the previous four games, he'd totaled 110 yards with a 2.4-yard average per carry.
"C.J., when he gets on the edge, he goes," said Fisher, who coached Johnson during his 2,000-yard season in 2009.
The Rams (3-6) got a second straight 100-yard game from rookie Zac Stacy, who had 127 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.
Rookie Tavon Austin's 24-yard punt return gave the Rams a final chance at their 39 with 50 seconds to go and no timeouts. Chris Givens had a 25-yard catch to put them in striking distance.
Austin Pettis leaped and got his left hand on Clemens' final, fourth-down pass to the front corner of the end zone.
"Obviously these are a disappointing past two weeks. We feel like we've been in the games throughout and haven't closed, haven't finished," Pettis said. "It's little things here and there and it seems like we're hurting ourselves and haven't been able to put it together."
The Rams had a sloppy start with three straight penalties helping the Titans score on their opening possession capped by Shonn Greene's 5-yard run. Finnegan, Darian Stewart and Jermelle Cudjo were whistled for horse collar, holding and illegal use of hands.
"They're correctable things but you can't be saying, 'These things are correctable' in Week 9," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "We should have gotten those things corrected eight weeks ago."
Stacy's 3-yard run in the second quarter was St. Louis' first rushing touchdown of the season. It also was their first TD in two games overall, to snap a 1-for-8 slump inside the 20.
Clemens was 7 for 7 for 75 yards to open the game, and 0 for 6 to finish the half — with two dropped passes. The Rams failed to capitalize on Finnegan's interception in the final minute when Greg Zuerlein pushed a 44-yard field goal attempt just wide to the right — his first miss inside 50 of the season in 15 attempts.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org