Titans 30, Rams 3

Tuesday, August 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans wanted to send a message to their fans about the St. Louis Rams. The fact that they were playing an exhibition just didn't matter.

They routed the St. Louis Rams 30-3 Monday night in a preseason rematch of the last Super Bowl. All-Pro end Jevon Kearse said the AFC champions prepared for the exhibition as if it was a regular-season game.

``Not just for revenge for the Super Bowl, but to show the world we're not a joke. We're here to play. We've put it out there in their heads and in everyone else's heads around the league,'' Kearse said.

``We're a whole different team now. We've gotten better.''

The Titans got five sacks, Steve McNair threw for a touchdown and Neil O'Donnell tossed two more TD passes as the team that came up 1 yard short of forcing the first overtime in the Super Bowl embarrassed the reigning champions.

The Rams looked like they were playing in a high school jamboree as they turned the ball over five times, dropped at least eight passes and were penalized seven times. Coach Mike Martz took the credit for the problems in only his second game as head coach.

``I didn't have this football team prepared for what they were going to see. Obviously, this is an important game for Tennessee. Because it's the rematch, they took this one seriously,'' he said.

The Titans, 2-0 for the first time since 1996, dominated the game through the first quarter and should have won by more. But they settled for three field goals by Al Del Greco.

Eddie George was nearly unstoppable as he carried 15 times for 69 yards in two series, and McNair looked almost as sharp as he capped the first series with a 5-yard TD toss to Frank Wycheck. He had trouble connecting with Wycheck, his favorite target the past four seasons, in the second quarter and finished 10-of-18 for 74 yards.

The Titans didn't pass up the chance to pour it on the Rams. Tennessee led 13-3 when O'Donnell came into the game in the third quarter, and he needed only three plays before finding a wide-open Erron Kinney for a 25-yard TD. He added a 24-yarder to Chris Sanders in the fourth.

``This was more emotional than a typical preseason game because of the fact that we were playing the team that took our gold from us last year,'' Titans cornerback Samari Rolle said.

Martz said he nearly didn't play Warner, who had a tight shoulder. Warner could have stayed on the bench since he lasted for three plays on his only series. He was sacked on the first play and missed Az-Zahir Hakim on his only pass.

Hakim separated his shoulder, and Martz said he likely would miss the rest of the preseason.

Trent Green didn't fare much better as the Titans played their first-team defense the entire first half. Martz tried to protect Green and his surgically repaired knee by keeping his first-team offensive line in front of him, but Green tripped coming away from the center once and was sacked twice.

Green played the first series of the third quarter protected by the first-teamers, but it did little good. He was sacked by Titans cornerback Ty Howard at the St. Louis 1 and left the game after that. He completed five of 12 passes for 68 yards.

Some of the Rams (1-1) said they were embarrassed. Everyone agreed that they just didn't take the game seriously. Tackle D'Marco Farr compared the game to last season's 24-21 Halloween loss to the Titans, which sparked the Rams' run to the Super Bowl.

``It was a wakeup call. We thanked them last year for getting us up for last season, so thanks again, Tennessee,'' he said.