NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans
couldn't have started their preseason much better, and Kelly
Holcomb may have nudged ahead of Tim Couch in the latest round of
Cleveland's quarterback competition.
The Browns nearly rallied to win behind Josh Booty who found
Marc Soumah in the end zone in the final minute. But officials
ruled the pass incomplete even though a replay showed Soumah may
have gotten his hands under the ball.
Coach Jeff Fisher called it classic Titans football.
"We had about 200 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, some dumb
penalties, and we won at the end," he said. "It was good to put
ourselves in position to evaluate the young guys at the end. Their
personalities came alive, and they wanted to win the game."
McNair and the Titans opened the game with a 15-play, 72-yard
drive capped by George's 1-yard TD run. McNair was nearly perfect
on the drive, completing six of his first nine passes and even
showed midseason form as he shook off Cleveland end Kenard Lang.
Both McNair and George left after two series with McNair 7-of-10
for 61 yards and George rushing seven times for 24 yards.
"I think we came out looking really sharp," McNair said.
"Overall, we played pretty well. We did well on the first drive.
Unfortunately, we stumbled on the second drive. Those kinds of
Couch, the top pick in the 1999 draft, didn't look very good as
he played the first three series. The Browns moved the ball only 9
yards in the first quarter, going three-and-out on the first two
series. Couch even fell once coming out from center, although he
avoided a sack by scrambling out of bounds.
He rebounded by completing his next four passes before Andre
King dropped one, and Phil Dawson kicked a 26-yard field goal.
Couch finished 4-for-8 for 17 yards.
"Certainly, Tim got the lion's share of Tennessee's first-team
defense," Cleveland coach Butch Davis said. "He got Samari Rolle
and all their No. 1 corners."
Davis has promised to make this competition for the starting job
as equal as possible, and he pointed out that Holcomb went up
against the Titans' second- and third-team corners. Holcomb came in
with 7:28 left in the second with a pair of rookies at safety.
Holcomb found King on the right sideline for a 20-yard
completion with 4 seconds left to set up Dawson's second field
goal, a 51 yarder to pull Cleveland within 7-6 at the end of the
half. Holcomb was 7-of-11 for 71 yards.
Booty didn't fare much better either for the Browns. Brad
Kassell, who is trying to become the Titans' starting middle
linebacker, intercepted Booty's pass intended for C.J. Jones with
4:45 to go in the third.
But Booty came back in for Nate Hybl with 1:42 left, and he
immediately found Antoine Burns on a 60-yard completion to the
Titans 6. That got the Titans' defensive starters chanting
"Defense" on the sideline, and the unit, filled with rookies and
undrafted free agents, held on.
Davis, who already had lost two challenges of his own, wasn't
happy that officials did not review the play.
"It should have been you know because I think it was caught,
and that was kind of an issue with all of the reviews tonight. I
don't think they used a whole lot of cameras in some of these
preseason games," Davis said.
The Titans had to play the entire game with rookie Donnie Nickey
at free safety in place of Lance Schulters. Schulters had an
emergency root canal Monday and has been bothered by it the past
two days. Nickey played well, hitting Couch hard on a blitz in the
Titans CB Andre Woolfolk, their top draft pick in April,
dislocated his left big toe in the second quarter. X-rays did not
show a fracture, but he will have an MRI on Sunday. ... Fisher said
Schulters likely will undergo testing because of the complications
from his root canal. ... The Browns lost their exhibition opener
for the first time since returning to the NFL in 1999. They are
just 1-8 on the road in the preseason in that time. ... Fisher
wasn't very happy with his defensive line. They jumped offsides
repeatedly, including once when all four went too early.