McNair missed practice for a second straight week because of pain in his ribs. But he looked healthy Sunday, throwing for 237 yards and a touchdown as the Titans beat the Colts 27-17 Sunday to take control of the AFC South.
|Eddie George finds plenty of room on a 1-yard TD run. (AP)|
McNair completed 14 straight passes at one point, and he kept drives alive by scrambling for 49 yards despite turf toe on his right foot. Colts tackle Brad Scioli even had him by the jersey at one point, but McNair pulled away for a 16-yard gain.
As a result, the Titans (8-5) swept the season series from the Colts and won for the seventh time in their last eight games. Tennessee, which also got two rushing TDs from Eddie George, improved to 4-0 in the division.
"To do what he did today and last week without the benefit of practice is really unbelievable," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "I have a lot of respect for him."
McNair had plenty of help. Indianapolis (8-5) had won four straight games, but Peyton Manning threw three interceptions.
The Colts needed to score twice to tie the game in the final minute, and Manning got them to first-and-5 at the Tennessee 26. But Dungy chose to let Mike Vanderjagt try his second 44-yarder, and this time he was wide right. Dungy said he was trying to save some time.
"We were going to have to get an onsides kick anyway and get a desperation play," Dungy said.
The Titans, who have now won six of their last seven in this series, ran out the remaining 17 seconds to set themselves up for what would be their first division title since 2000.
Indianapolis now may need some help to reach the playoffs.
"It has been tight all year long, and I don't think anyone has catapulted ahead yet," Colts end Chad Bratzke said. "This is the NFL. The races should be tight."
The Titans jumped out to an early lead -- just like they did on Nov. 3, when they beat the Colts 23-15.
This time they led 14-0 after 17 minutes and 21-10 at halftime, and the team that leads the NFL in time of possession held the ball for more than 32 minutes.
Indianapolis outgained Tennessee on offense 389-348, but 202 of the Colts' yards came when they were trying to play catch-up.
Manning, who last week became the only quarterback in NFL history to begin his career with five straight 3,000 yard passing seasons, tried to rally the Colts. His third interception came in the end zone in the third quarter.
"I'll take all the responsibility," Manning said. "Obviously, I would've liked to have done my job better."
He drove them 78 yards in the fourth, and James Mungro capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run with 6:36 left that cut the lead to 24-17.
It wasn't enough.
McNair had no problems with the NFL's second-best pass defense, which had been giving up an average of 163.1 yards. He was 12-of-14 for 160 yards in the first half alone, and he helped the Titans pad their fourth-quarter lead by scrambling to set up two Joe Nedney field goals, from 35 and 29 yards.
McNair finished 19-of-23, and he had a passer rating of 124.1. He said he can't explain why he plays so well despite the pain.
"It goes back to high school when my coach told me that when you're in pain, you tend to stay more focused on what you have to do," McNair said. "I took that to heart, and I think that's how I play now. I can just concentrate better when I'm playing in pain."
Indianapolis came in wanting revenge for last month's loss in which the Titans jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead. This time, they had Edgerrin James at running back, and he carried 18 times for 70 yards.
Tennessee jumped on the Colts early as McNair needed only seven plays to put the Titans up 7-0 with a 42-yard touchdown pass on their opening drive.
- Manning had some swelling in his right knee after the game. He said he will have it checked by the team doctor.
- His three interceptions tied his season high. He had been intercepted only twice in 133 attempts during the Colts' winning streak.
- The Titans now are 17-2 against teams making their first visit to The Coliseum.
- Titans FS Lance Schulters tied his career-high with his sixth interception this season. SS Tank Williams had the first interception of his career.
- Dungy now is 0-4 against the Titans as a head coach.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved