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Tennessee at Cincinnati

McNair looks sharp again as Titans top Bengals

SportsLine.com wire reports

CINCINNATI -- Steve McNair was something to behold. The Tennessee Titans' patchwork defense was something else.

Jon Kitna is sacked during the first quarter on Saturday. 
Jon Kitna is sacked during the first quarter on Saturday.(AP) 
McNair put on another impressive passing performance Saturday night, leading the Titans to scores on all three first-half possessions as they pulled away to a 23-15 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Looking sharp for the third straight preseason game, McNair was 13-of-17 for 167 yards while leading the Titans to a 13-7 halftime lead. He wasn't sacked as he picked apart Cincinnati's first-string defense, completing four throws of at least 20 yards.

"The last two or three years in preseason, we really didn't find a rhythm on offense," McNair said. "But this year, that's what we've really worked on. We're not out there thinking, we're just playing."

Joe Nedney kicked field goals of 48 and 31 yards, and McNair lobbed a 1-yard touchdown pass to uncovered tight end Shad Meier with 20 seconds left in the half. He was 7-of-8 for 81 yards in the drive that showed the Titans' spread offense at its best.

"Steve still has some work to do to get ready for the season, but if anybody is close to being ready, he is," coach Jeff Fisher said.

McNair has been the Titans' brightest spot in preseason, going 28-of-39 for 298 yards with two touchdowns. The defense has been their biggest concern.

With Jevon Kearse sidelined by a sprained ankle sustained in practice Tuesday and the middle linebacker position unsettled, the Titans (3-0) went with a patchwork defense that had problems.

"We didn't play the run very well," Fisher said. "We didn't tackle like I would have liked. The biggest disappointment is the third downs -- we couldn't get off the field."

The Bengals (1-2) had chances to score on each of their three first-half possessions, but self-destructed the way they have for most of the last 12 years.

Backup tight end Tony Stewart let Jon Kitna's perfectly thrown pass glance off his hands at the Titans' 5-yard line, the ball deflecting to Andre Dyson for an interception. Neil Rackers missed a 49-yard field goal attempt on the next possession.

Finally, Kitna threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Peter Warrick to complete an unremarkable first half -- 12-of-17 for 114 yards and the first touchdown by Cincinnati's first-string offense in preseason.

"That's nothing new for us," Kitna said of the touchdown. "We know we can do it. But when you don't get points - that's what we've got to change."

Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer took over in the second half, hoping to build upon his perfect Cincinnati debut last weekend -- 7-for-7 for 97 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Instead, he looked like a rookie.

His first throw was intercepted by Dyson, and linebacker Rocky Boiman sacked him on his next play. Palmer was 3-of-5 for 22 yards in the third quarter.

With one exhibition left before the season opener against Denver, first-year coach Marvin Lewis has a lot of work to do.

"There were a lot of positives for what we did, but it's not close to where we've got to be to beat the Broncos, and we realize that," Lewis said.

Fisher hasn't yet decided on his middle linebacker. Brad Kassell became the third to start there, and didn't make any outstanding plays. Frank Chamberlin and Rocky Calmus started the first two preseason games.

Kassell got in for only about 10 plays because the Bengals used their three-receiver formation so much in the first half.


  • DE Juqua Thomas, in the lineup because of the injuries, had the Titans' only sack on Kitna in the first half.
  • Kitna tackled Dyson after his interception on the Bengals' opening drive.
  • Dyson had to come out of the game after hyperventilating and getting dizzy in the second half. Dyson said it has happened to him before, and it's nothing serious.
  • The Bengals sold 41,335 tickets for the game. Their home exhibitions drew two of the three smallest preseason crowds since Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000, an indication that Lewis also has a lot of work to do to win back fans.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
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Scoring Summary
FGJoe Nedney 48 Yd, 2:58. Drive: 11 plays, 47 yards in 6:44.
FGJoe Nedney 31 Yd, 9:47. Drive: 7 plays, 48 yards in 3:07.
TDPeter Warrick, 15 Yd pass from Jon Kitna (Neil Rackers kick is good), 3:48. Drive: 12 plays, 73 yards in 5:59.
TDShad Meier, 1 Yd pass from Steve McNair (Joe Nedney kick is good), 0:20. Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards in 3:28.
FGJoe Nedney 32 Yd, 9:30. Drive: 4 plays, 2 yards in 1:02.
TDDarrell Hill, 13 Yd pass from Neil O'Donnell (Joe Nedney kick is good), 7:42. Drive: 6 plays, 74 yards in 2:59.
TDLawrence Hamilton, 20 Yd pass from Shane Matthews (Shane Matthews pass to Matt Schobel for 2 Pt. Conversion), 5:04. Drive: 9 plays, 73 yards in 2:38.
S. McNair13/1716710
N. O'Donnell7/1410910
J. Gesser2/23700
E. George102105
D. Hicks71606
J. Simon515010
R. Holcombe21008
J. Gesser4-70-1
D. Bennett352026
D. Mason346031
J. Schifino241030
D. Hill239126
S. Meier327113
R. Luke126026
G. Comella123023
T. Calico219013
J. McCareins21207
C. Hayes111011
J. Simon110010
R. Holcombe1707
J. Kitna12/1711411
S. Matthews6/98010
C. Palmer3/52201
R. Johnson1042015
C. Dillon73407
P. Warrick127027
B. Bennett51305
K. Washington1303
J. Kitna2102
R. Jackson2001
T. Houshmandzadeh571021
P. Warrick322115
L. Hamilton120120
C. Dillon119019
R. Kelly216012
C. Edmonds115015
R. Johnson111011
R. Jackson1808
K. Washington1808
C. Johnson1707
D. Farmer1606
B. Bennett1505
M. Schobel1404
Complete Player Stats