NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson wore a visor and T-shirt and stayed busy as Tennessee's top cheerleader.
Alvin Pearman's 5-yard touchdown with 3:18 left helped the Titans beat the Saints 27-24 on Thursday night in the preseason finale where both teams thought of safety first for their key stars.
New Orleans looked ahead to the NFL's regular-season opener on Sept. 9 when the defending Super Bowl champs host the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre. Coach Sean Payton gave Brees and Bush plenty of company on the safety of the sideline by subbing out for most of his starters.
"Everyone around this team understands the position that we're in, understands that we have a special group here and understands that we have to protect it at all costs," Bush said.
The clock on their game week already has started now with Payton having to make final roster cuts and worry about the health of another running back. Chris Ivory had four carries for 5 yards before hurting a knee, and Payton said only that they will know about the running back Friday.
"Obviously, we've got a lot to do in a short period of time when we get back," Payton said.
Harry Coleman recovered the ball off the first of two blocked punts for a TD, and Chase Daniel had a 35-yard TD pass to Adrian Arrington for New Orleans (2-2). Daniel tried to pull out the victory, but his pass to Tyler Lorenzen was intercepted by Gerald McRath in the final seconds.
Johnson worked out before the doors opened, running stadium steps and later signed autographs as a healthy scratch. Tennessee starters such as receivers Justin Gage (right thumb) and Nate Washington (left wrist) and starting left guard Leroy Harris (ankle) also were kept out to heal up their nagging injuries before the Titans' opener Sept. 12 against Oakland.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he told Johnson before last week's loss at Carolina he wouldn't play in this game. The running back spent the past week concentrating on his diet, lifting weights and conditioning.
"Get him in the best shape he's been in before the opener in his career," Fisher said.
With so many of the Saints' starters out on defense, that might be why the Titans rolled up 222 yards rushing even without the All-Pro running back who had 2,006 yards last season. Javon Ringer, an All-American at Michigan State in 2008, had 64 yards on four carries. Samkon Gado, a late add during camp, ran for 63 yards and Blount finished with 57.
They finished with 466 yards total offense, and Fisher liked what he saw.
"If you take into consideration who was out there, you could justify and say, 'Well, you couldn't have done this with that group or this group.' The bottom line is when you hand the ball off, you should make plays and we did. We moved piles ...," Fisher said. "We've got a lot of tough decisions to make over the next couple days."
Patrick Ramsey got the start for the Saints, trying to beat out Daniel for the job backing up Brees. He had been on the Titans' roster once, and they looked at him again in the spring before deciding to sign Chris Simms. He drove the Saints 53 yards before settling for a 45-yard field goal by Hartley -- the first points Tennessee had given up in the first quarter this preseason.
Ramsey finished 11 of 16 for 98 yards. He was sacked twice. Daniel was 10 of 18 for 137 yards.
"I did the best I could," Ramsey said. "We'll see where it falls."
The Titans opened with a three-and-out. Johnson's backup, Ringer, then showed he can run, too. He broke off a 47-yard run before being tackled by Patrick Robinson.
Young capped the 89-yard drive with a 7-yard dart to Bo Scaife and a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. Johnson, in his role as cheerleader for the night, met his teammates with high-fives as they came off the field. That marked the end of the game for Young, too.
The Saints went up 10-7 when Junior Galette easily beat Titans safety Nick Schommer and blocked Brett Kern's punt. The ball bounced before Coleman collected it just before the goal line and scored the touchdown in the second quarter.
Jimmy Graham blocked another punt by Kern in the fourth quarter, but the Saints had to settle for Hartley's third field goal to make it 20-16.
Saints LB Jonathan Casillas also hurt a foot. Payton said further information on injuries would be available Friday. ... Tennessee has played only Dallas more often in the preseason, but the Saints still lead 14-12-1. ... Fisher now is 34-30 in the preseason in his career.
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