NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' record-setting scoring surge is over. Thanks to their defense, their winning streak is intact.
"The offense has been carrying us the last few weeks, and we needed a game like this today for the defense to rise up and really show how good we can be or how good we are," Titans safety Lance Schulters said. "We showed up to play today and made the plays when they counted."
Jacksonville (2-8) had first-and-goal needing to score to force overtime, but the Titans stopped Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala twice up the middle for losses. Scott McGarrahan tackled Cortez Hankton at the 2 after an 8-yard catch, then Byron Leftwich couldn't find a receiver in the end zone on fourth-and-2.
The Titans (8-2) then ran out the final 45 seconds for their 10th victory in 12 games in this series.
"This is kind of the old way, right down to the end," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "The important thing is we won."
Tennessee never came close to the standard it set in becoming only the third team since 1970 to top 30 points in six consecutive games. Jacksonville outgained Tennessee 271-246, came up with three turnovers and also sacked McNair twice -- its first sacks since Oct. 12. Hugh Douglas, who had his only sack of the season in the opener, had 1½ and also forced a fumble.
"We happen to have two of the better teams in the league in our division, and we went toe to toe with them," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of his team, which beat Indianapolis last week.
"I don't see any reason to think that we don't belong in that category. But they earned the right to be where they are, and we have not yet. But we are building something here."
But the Jaguars couldn't convert those turnovers into points against a Tennessee defense that lost end Jevon Kearse, the AFC's co-leader with 9½ sacks, to a sprained left ankle in the first quarter.
Tennessee intercepted Leftwich twice, including just before halftime when Samari Rolle picked off a pass at the Tennessee 17. He ran it back 52 yards.
Typical of the Titans' struggles, rookie Tyrone Calico dropped a pass from McNair in the end zone on the very next play. Douglas sacked McNair four plays later and stripped the ball.
"The mark of a good team is when you go out and you play as sloppy as we did offensively, and you still come out with a victory," McNair said. "The credit goes to the defense."
It was a game that didn't come close to the feuding the past week over late hits and dirty play following the teams' last meeting, a 30-17 Tennessee victory.
The Jaguars were seeking a second consecutive win for the first time this season. But they remained winless on the road. Fred Taylor, who had a season-high 152 yards rushing against the Colts, ran 14 times for 65 yards. He called the Titans, with the NFL's stingiest run defense, overrated.
"They've been jumping out on a couple teams, and teams have to stop running. ... Statistically, they are. But I didn't see it," Taylor said.
The Titans had outscored opponents 72-12 in the first period this season, but they never really got into rhythm. Their first play ended in a giveaway when Rashean Mathis intercepted a pass from McNair, the NFL's top-rated passer, in the end zone.
Gary Anderson kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead the Titans never lost, then they finally put together a drive. McNair capped the nine-play series with a 5-yard toss to Justin McCareins that first bounced off his left hand, then his chest before he finally pulled it in while on his back with Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant grabbing at his arms.
- The Titans extended their NFL-best streak to 26 consecutive home games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
- Leftwich finished without a touchdown for the first time in nine games. He had been tied with Oliver Luck with at least one TD passing or rushing in his first eight games.
- Tennessee now has won 10 consecutive at home.
- Titans kicker Joe Nedney, on injured reserve after tearing an ACL in his non-kicking leg, retrieved the tee after Tennessee's second kickoff.
- Taylor hurt his left knee in the third quarter. He had only one carry in the fourth quarter.
- The Titans got one sack to extend their streak to 18 consecutivegames with at least one sack.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved