Final

Titans 27

(11-4, 5-3 away)

Texans 24

(5-10, 3-4 home)

1:00 PM ET, December 21, 2003

 

1 2 3 4 T
TEN 0 10 7 1027
HOU 0 3 14 724

Bennett catches winner with 17 seconds left

HOUSTON (AP) -- It's December and Steve McNair is ailing.

Look out.

The Titans quarterback, playing with a cracked bone spur in his left ankle and a sore right calf, hit Drew Bennett for a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 17 seconds left to lead the Tennessee Titans into the playoffs with a 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Titans: Even though we see his heroics often, how amazing is Steve McNair?
Enough can't be said about the Iron Man. McNair plays through all measures of pain and still finds ways to rally his team to victory. He's one of the few players in the NFL who can single-handedly make his team a playoff contender year in and year out.

Question on the Texans: Are the Texans hurting for defensive personnel, or is the unit set back by an anemic offense?
The offense is the problem. This unit needs a dominant style of play and has to work on consistency. Right now, the defense is being left out to dry by the offense. The defense has consistently been left to play 60 or 70 downs per game, and that's way too many. When a defense is on the field that long, big plays by the opposing offense should be expected.

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

Titans coach Jeff Fisher waited until after pregame warmups to choose McNair over veteran Neil O'Donnell, signed Thursday after backup Billy Volek went down last weekend with a lacerated spleen. Volek started last week's victory over Buffalo to end McNair's consecutive game streak at 43.

"(McNair) was the difference," defensive end Jevon Kearse said. "If he hadn't been out there, I don't think the result would have been the same."

Tennessee (11-4) fell behind with 1:48 remaining when Domanick Davis capped a four-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run around the left end.

That put the ball back into the hands of McNair, who got the starting nod despite a noticeable limp. He drove the Titans 75 yards in the waning seconds, completing passes to Bennett for 20 and 24 yards before hitting him in stride over cornerback Marcus Coleman in the end zone on fourth-and-10.

"It's always tough, but that's what I get paid for," Coleman said. "I'll forget about it as soon as I leave here. You've got to have amnesia and a short-term memory to play defensive back in this league."

Samari Rolle cinched it for the Titans with four seconds left by intercepting David Carr, who returned after missing four starts with a sprained right shoulder.

McNair, who led the Titans to five straight wins at the end of last season despite not practicing because of injuries, was 17-of-36 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans qualified for postseason play when Cincinnati lost at St. Louis a few minutes before Tennessee's victory.

"I didn't feel that I needed to play, but I felt I wanted to go out there and get something started even if I didn't finish," said McNair, adding it was "50-50" on which leg hurt worse.

It was the sixth straight home game decided by less than a touchdown for the Texans (5-10), the expansion team formed to replace the Oilers after they moved to Tennessee in 1997. Houston fell to 0-4 against the Titans, in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

"Today is one of the most disappointing losses I've been involved with," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "It's disappointing to me as a head coach because of the way our guys fought."

Things looked promising for Houston when Carr, 17-of-34 for 242 yards, hit Andre Johnson for a 42-yard pass play late in the game to get the Texans within striking distance. Davis, an offensive rookie of the year contender, did the rest with a 15-yard run followed by his scoring trot.

The Texans tied it 10-10 midway into the third quarter when Marlon McCree picked off McNair's pass and ran it back 95 yards for the longest play in team history. McNair just missed a diving tackle on the sideline.

Moments later, Davis fumbled on a hit by Keith Bulluck. Rolle snagged the loose ball and outran Carr for a 61-yard score.

Comic relief came later in the third quarter when the Texans tied it 17-17 after Carr scrambled right and hit Corey Bradford for a 20-yard touchdown strike. Carr and center Steve McKinney inspected the padding around the goal post, pretending to look for a cell phone like the one Saints receiver Joe Horn used to make an end zone call a week ago.

"We talked about it in the huddle right before that," McKinney said. "We knew we were going to score."

McNair and Eddie George, who rushed for 79 yards, led an early fourth-quarter drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Gary Anderson to retake the lead.

Neither offense accomplished much in the first half until McNair's 73-yard connection to Justin McCareins, who almost pulled cornerback Kenny Wright into the end zone but was downed at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter. McNair hit Erron Kinney two plays later for 2-yard score and a 7-3 advantage.

Gary Anderson added a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

Game notes


McNair set a career high with 24 touchdown passes, two better than last season. He has 3,215 yards passing through 15 games this season, his fourth with 3,000 or better. ... Texans linebacker Shantee Orr broke his left ankle, and cornerback Kenny Wright -- starting because of Aaron Glenn's season-ending groin surgery -- tore a knee ligament.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
Tennessee
Houston
1st Downs2114
3rd down efficiency
3-134-12
4th down efficiency
1-20-0
Total Yards450326
Yards per play6.36.2
Total Drives21
Passing268235
Comp-Att
17-3617-34
Yards per pass
7.46.9
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-01-7
Rushing18291
Rushing Attempts
3518
Yards per rush
5.25.1
Penalties6-427-75
Turnovers13
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
12
Possession36:1823:42

Passing Leaders

TENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
McNair17/362687.4210-0
HOUC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Carr17/342427.1121-7

Rushing Leaders

TENCARYDSAVGTDLG
George19794.2027
Brown10696.9028
HOUCARYDSAVGTDLG
Davis14513.6115
Carr44010.0016

Receiving Leaders

TENRECYDSAVGTDLG
Bennett58416.8124
McCareins28241.0073
HOURECYDSAVGTDLG
Johnson510821.6042
Bradford33612.0120

Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERTENHOU
FG4:20KRIS BROWN 49 YD 03
TD11:44ERRON KINNEY 2 YD PASS FROM STEVE MCNAIR (GARY ANDERSON KICK)
Drive: 5 plays, 87 yds, 3:30
73
FG15:00GARY ANDERSON 41 YD
Drive: 6 plays, 59 yds, :59
103
THIRD QUARTERTENHOU
TD6:16MARLON MCCREE 95 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (KRIS BROWN KICK) 1010
TD9:42SAMARI ROLLE 61 YD FUMBLE RETURN (GARY ANDERSON KICK) 1710
TD12:05COREY BRADFORD 20 YD PASS FROM DAVID CARR (KRIS BROWN KICK)
Drive: 6 plays, 72 yds, 2:23
1717
FOURTH QUARTERTENHOU
FG3:20GARY ANDERSON 26 YD
Drive: 9 plays, 64 yds, 6:15
2017
TD13:12DOMANICK DAVIS 5 YD RUN (KRIS BROWN KICK)
Drive: 4 plays, 80 yds, 1:02
2024
TD14:43DREW BENNETT 23 YD PASS FROM STEVE MCNAIR (GARY ANDERSON KICK)
Drive: 8 plays, 75 yds, 1:31
2724