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Steelers Steelers next opponent: Tennessee Titans

McNair helps Titans rebound from loss, top Saints

Monday, September 22, 2003

By Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans felt embarrassed and angry, and they were determined to get off to a better start in September.

Steve McNair helped them do that in a big way yesterday.

McNair threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans defeated the New Orleans Saints, 27-12.

The Titans, who started 1-4 last season, were upset after a 33-7 loss at Indianapolis last week. They improved to 2-1 with a dominating performance that could have been even better if they had not stopped themselves.

They settled for two field goals by Gary Anderson, including once inside the New Orleans 10, and McNair fumbled on another possession near the goal line.

"Our challenge now is to keep this going," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We bounced back after a tough week."

McNair became the fifth NFL quarterback to have 20,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in his career.

Eddie George had 29 carries for 100 yards and ran for his first touchdown of the season to seal the victory.

The Titans held the ball for more than 39 minutes, which was more than enough as the defense had three sacks and held New Orleans (1-2) to 188 yards total offense.

"We knew what they were going to try to do to us," New Orleans coach Jim Haslett said. "Again, we didn't execute well enough."

The Titans came into the game with an NFL-best streak of 22 consecutive home games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, and they improved that to 23 by stopping Deuce McAllister, the NFC's leading rusher last season with 1,388 yards.

McAllister had five carries in the first half for minus-9 yards. He finished with 11 carries for 8 yards.

He caught the Titans at a bad time. They had allowed Edgerrin James to run for 120 yards last week in a loss at Indianapolis, and they were determined not to let it happen again.

"We take pride stopping the run," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "Last week we had a bad game. Everybody decided to say we couldn't stop the run. That's what we do."

Aaron Brooks had no better luck jump-starting the Saints, who had the NFC's highest-scoring offense last year. Against the Titans, they could only outscore their special teams, which had a safety, through the first three quarters.

Saints receiver Joe Horn had 17 catches in the first two games but just one for 5 yards against Tennessee. New Orleans had only 41 offensive plays.

"They took away our primary threat, which is Deuce running the football," Brooks said. "Deuce had no daylight, no daylight at all."

McNair came into the game questionable after his right ring finger was dislocated last week. He showed no signs of pain, and completed 10 of his first 11 passes against a defense missing five different starters because of injuries.

He guided three different scoring drives using up more than seven minutes each.

"He hasn't gotten a lot of credit over the years," Fisher said of his quarterback. "He's made plays and won a lot of games. That shows you what kind of passer he is."

Said McNair: "We wanted to go out and prove a point."

The Titans started strong as they held New Orleans to just 20 yards in the first quarter, but they led, 13-5, at halftime despite limiting the Saints to minus-5 yards rushing.

New Orleans scored its first points following a miscue by Tennessee.

Keyuo Carver hit Justin McCareins as he caught a punt, and McCareins fumbled backward toward his end zone.

Tony Beckham picked up the ball and threw it forward to Lamont Thompson who was tackled, and the officials flagged the Titans for an illegal forward pass and a safety, which made the score, 3-2.

That was as close as the Saints would get because Melvin Williams fumbled the ball on the ensuing free kick, and Tyrone Calico recovered for the Titans.

McNair drove the Titans' 38 yards, which he capped with a 2-yard touchdown toss to McCareins.

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