Nedney boots 50-yarder, Hentrich 49


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans got some revenge against the Oakland Raiders thanks to an unlikely hero.

Steve McNair threw two touchdowns and punter Craig Hentrich kicked three field goals while filling in for injured Joe Nedney as the Titans downed the Raiders 25-20 Sunday night.

How far will this team get with an injured Porter?

This affects the Raiders' offense doubly. First, Rich Gannon needs someone to stretch the field and with no receiver to do that, he's relegated to 5-yard dumpoffs. Second, the lack of a deep threat makes it easier for the defense to bust off the edges and wreak havoc in the backfield.

Will they give Holcombe some carries or rely mainly on George?
The Titans are probably going to give Robert Holcombe more carries because Eddie George is no longer the man in Tennessee. That title has been switched over to QB Steve McNair, which makes it easier for the Titans to start sharing the ball.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"What can you say about our punter?" Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said.

"When you're asked to do a job and all of a sudden you have to change gears and do something else, it's tough. For him to go 3-for-3 tonight, it says an awful lot about Craig. When we re-signed him this offseason, that was a huge move for us."

It was a messy opener that doubled as a rematch of last season's AFC championship game. The Titans came in wanting to avenge the loss that kept them from their second Super Bowl in four seasons -- and get a jump-start for this season. Oakland won the AFC title game 41-24 in January and outscored the Titans 93-49 in two meetings last season that featured plenty of Tennessee mistakes.

This game had lots of errors, too. The teams combined for 28 penalties for 284 yards, but it was the Raiders who hurt themselves over and over. Their share was 17 for 173.

"We had opportunities to win," Oakland receiver Jerry Rice said. "It's just mistakes. Mistakes are killing us now."

The Raiders didn't show any signs of the offense that was the NFL's best in 2002 until Rich Gannon found Tim Brown for a 25-yard TD that made it 22-20 with 3:30 left.

But McNair answered by driving the Titans 54 yards and setting up Hentrich's third field goal himself with a 10-yard scramble. He was 25-of-38 for 269 yards.

Hentrich was doing double duty because Nedney sprained his right knee on the kickoff after he kicked a 50-yard field goal. Hentrich had three field goals in nine years before matching that total Sunday night.

Nedney also got hurt in the AFC title game and was replaced by Hentrich, who didn't hit any field goals that time. Hentrich, who kicked field goals and punted in college at Notre Dame, said there must be something about the Raiders.

"I'm just honored that it happened tonight, and I feel very fortunate," said Hentrich, who made 39 field goals at Notre Dame.

But the Titans might be auditioning new kickers quickly. Fisher said Nedney hurt a medial collateral ligament and possibly his anterior cruciate ligament.

Oakland had one last chance with 31 seconds left and no timeouts. Gannon, last year's MVP, overthrew Rice and threw the ball at Charlie Garner's back as time expired.

The Titans got some help from the officials.

McNair found Derrick Mason at the back of the end zone with a 3-yard toss, and Mason was pushed out of bounds by Oakland safety Anthony Dorsett before he got a foot down. Although replays showed Mason likely couldn't have gotten both feet in bounds for a catch, it was ruled a touchdown.

Raiders coach Bill Callahan said that he would have challenged the ruling but that he learned his lesson in the Super Bowl that Oakland lost to Tampa Bay.

"Pushouts are unchallengeable, so it was one of those things," Callahan said.

Oakland, 1-3 in the preseason with the veterans playing very little, didn't get going until it was too late. A sellout crowd on its feet whenever the Raiders had the ball helped them rack up eight false starts even though they had practiced with noise this past week.

Tennessee's defense did its best to disrupt the Raiders, sacking Gannon four times. Oakland's top receivers, Rice and Brown, never really got going. Brown didn't catch his first pass until 2:37 left in the third, and he finished with five catches for 64 yards. Rice had four for 43, and Jerry Porter had one for 6.

The Titans, debuting their alternative jersey with the predominant Columbia blue reminiscent of their days as the Houston Oilers, now haven't lost since the title game after going 4-0 in the preseason.

The NFL delayed the kickoff approximately 20 minutes to accommodate President Bush's national speech. What followed was a very strange game.

Titans defensive tackle Robaire Smith was ejected in the second quarter for bumping an official, then Tennessee lost Nedney.

Oakland led only once, 10-9 on a 46-yard TD reception by Garner just before halftime. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a pair of 47-yard field goals.

But Hentrich put the Titans back on top 12-10 at the half with his first field goal since 1995, a 49-yarder that matched his career best. He also added a 34-yarder in the third period and a 33-yarder with 32 seconds left.

Game notes
Hentrich had been 0-2 on field goals with the Titans, and it was his first field goal since Sept. 24, 1995, when he also kicked a 49-yarder, for Green Bay against Jacksonville. ... Titans WR Tyrone Calico scored an 11-yard TD on the first catch of his career, the first player in franchise history to do that since Tony Jones on Sept. 9, 1990, against Atlanta. ... The Titans have won four of five regular-season games in this series under Fisher. ... Oakland C Barret Robbins was not active. He is the third center on the roster as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his knee. ... Top Titans draft pick Andre Woolfolk was not active.