McNair leads Titans to 24-7 win over Pats

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans can cancel practice: Steve McNair doesn't need it.

Playing for the third consecutive week without a full practice, McNair ran for two touchdowns Monday night and the Titans beat the New England Patriots 24-7 to move into a tie for the best record in the AFC.

Eddie George ran for 101 yards, Robert Holcombe had 85 and Jevon Kearse made an emotional return for the Titans (9-5). Holcombe also forced and recovered a fumble to turn an interception by the Patriots (8-6) into a first down and help set up McNair's second TD.

McNair, who injured his ribs in a Nov. 24 loss to Baltimore, has taken part in just one drill since then -- a 7-on-7 session on Friday. But Tennessee has won three straight games in spite of it, and eight of nine.

The streak has erased a 1-4 start and propelled the Titans into a first-place tie in the AFC South; they hold the tie-breaking edge over Indianapolis. Tennessee also moved into a four-way tie in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

New England dropped into second place in the AFC East, a game behind Miami. The Patriots, who had won three in a row and five of six, could still win the division with victories over the New York Jets next week and the Dolphins in the season finale.

Tom Brady went 14-for-29 for 134 yards and ran for a touchdown, scoring from 10 yards out on a quick-snap sneak and running through the wide open middle to make it 14-7 early in the third quarter. It was Brady's second career rushing touchdown, and his first in the regular season.

But Brady also threw an interception that deflected off David Patten. Safety Rich Coady waited for it to come down, then ran 24 yards to the end zone to give the Titans a 21-7 lead.

McNair was 11-of-24 for 136 yards and an interception that didn't hurt him, because Holcombe stripped the ball from Terrell Buckley on the return and fell on it to give the Titans a first down.

Instead of the Patriots having the ball at the Tennessee 42 with a chance to tie the game early, the Titans drove to the 1 before McNair punched it over to make it 14-0.

McNair gave Tennessee a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when he scrambled out of a collapsing pocket up the middle, slipping out of one tackle before scoring the touchdown.

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