By R.B. Fallstrom
AP SPORTS WRITER
09/25/2005


The St. Louis Rams' needed a last-minute defensive stand for a victory over the Tennessee Titans, and Leonard Little flashed back -- not to his team's 2000 Super Bowl win, but to a fresh memory from seven days ago.

Marc Bulger threw three touchdown passes and the Rams survived a controversial replay ruling in the fourth quarter to hang on for a 31-27 win Sunday. Last week the Rams held off a down-to-the wire drive by the Arizona Cardinals to win by five points.

"I had thoughts of last week," Little said. "We played pretty good last week except for the last drive, and we knew if they got into the red zone they'd have a chance to throw it into the end zone.

"They never did get that far."

The Rams (2-1) won their only Super Bowl when Mike Jones' overtime-saving tackle of Kevin Dyson at the 1 preserved a 23-16 victory over Tennessee. In their first meeting since, the Titans drove to the St. Louis 23 in the final minute and had two shots at the end zone before running out of downs.

"I thought it was coming together, we did the things we had to do at the end," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We had time, we just ran out of downs."

The Titans converted three turnovers into 17 points while the Rams got an 85-yard interception return from Adam Archuleta for a touchdown.

Torry Holt caught nine passes for 163 yards in the first three quarters and Kevin Curtis' 10-yard catch on the first play of the fourth quarter was the go-ahead score for the Rams.

Steve McNair was 24-of-39 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Titans (1-2). It took Tennessee, which was leading 10-0 and appeared close to another score early in the second quarter, a long time to recover from Archuleta's return.

Bulger was 21-of-28 for 292 yards with an interception; he also fumbled three times, losing two. The third was recovered in the fourth quarter by first-round draft pick Alex Barron, who was making his pro debut.

The Titans, who made it to the Super Bowl in 2000 with the help of a questionable lateral known as the "Music City Miracle," cut the gap to four points on a similar play in the fourth quarter.

With the Rams leading 31-24, Bulger's swing pass to running back Steven Jackson appeared as though it might have gone forward before falling incomplete. But there was no whistle and Peter Sirmon scooped up the ball and returned it 41 yards to the Rams 29 with 10:26 left.

The Rams challenged the call and the St. Louis offense and Tennessee defense stayed on the field throughout the review process, an indication that the call would be overturned. But referee Tom White said there was inconclusive evidence and the play stood.

"I do that every day, that's what I do for a living," Bulger said. "That's a hot route. But it's neither here nor there now, we won and we don't have to go kill the ref."

The Titans said White did the right thing.

"Our people upstairs said it was clearly a lateral," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "You have to have an awful lot to overturn it, and I was right there and I felt like it was a lateral."

A third-down sack by Little forced a 39-yard field goal by Bironas that cut the Rams' lead to 31-27 with 6:02 to go.

Fans booed the officials at every opportunity the rest of the game.

The Titans outgained the Rams 111-5 in the first quarter and scored on a 16-yard pass from McNair to Ben Troupe and a 41-yard field goal set up by an interception by Tank Williams. Bulger said the Rams were confused at first by Tennessee's defense.

"Half is not enough protection, half is my fault and half is them just doing a good job," Bulger said. "I know it's 150 percent, but I'm a little tired now."

Archuleta's third career interception reversed the momentum. He jumped on a short route for Drew Bennett and had a wide open field for the 85-yard return that got the Rams on the board early in the second quarter.

Energized, the Rams added a 46-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins and a 13-yard touchdown pass from Bulger to Marshall Faulk for a 17-10 halftime lead. They increased it on a 32-yarder from Bulger to Holt in the third quarter.

Notes: CBS reported Sunday that Titans RB Travis Henry would be suspended for four games Monday for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Henry had no yards on three carries and caught one pass for 16 yards. ... The Rams are 14-1 against the AFC since 1998. ... Rams WR Isaac Bruce missed the second half with turf toe but expects to be back next week. ... Archuleta's interception was the third of his career and first since Dec. 21, 2003 against the Bengals.