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Injured McNair leaves Indianapolis hurting

©Associated Press
December 9, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If sore ribs and turf toe can't stop Steve McNair, the Colts didn't have much of a chance.

McNair missed practice for a second straight week because of rib pain. But he looked healthy Sunday, throwing for 237 yards and a touchdown as the Titans beat the Colts 27-17 to take control of the AFC South.

"His play speaks for itself," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "It is hard to describe what he is doing."

McNair completed 14 straight at one point, and he kept drives alive by scrambling for 49 yards despite turf toe on his right foot. Colts tackle Brad Scioli even had him by the jersey, but McNair pulled away for a 16-yard gain.

The Titans swept the season series and won for the seventh time in their past eight games. Tennessee, which also got two rushing TDs from Eddie George, is 4-0 in the division.

"To do what he did today and last week without the benefit of practice is unbelievable," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "I have a lot of respect for him."

McNair had help. Indianapolis had won four straight, but Peyton Manning threw three interceptions.

The Colts needed to score twice to tie the score in the final minute, and Manning got them to first and 5 at the Tennessee 26. But Dungy let Mike Vanderjagt try his second 44-yarder, and this time he was wide right. Dungy said he was trying to save time.

"We were going to have to get an onsides kick anyway and get a desperation play," Dungy said.

The Titans, who have won six of the past seven in the series, ran out the final 17 seconds to set themselves up for what would be their first division title since 2000.

Indianapolis may need help to reach the playoffs.

"It has been tight all year long, and I don't think anyone has catapulted ahead yet," Colts end Chad Bratzke said. "This is the NFL. The races should be tight."

The Titans took an early lead -- just like they did on Nov. 3, when they beat the Colts 23-15.

This time they led 14-0 after 17 minutes and 21-10 at halftime.

Indianapolis outgained Tennessee 389-348, but 202 Colts yards came when they were playing catch-up.

Manning tried to rally the Colts, but his third interception came in the end zone in the third.

"I'll take all the responsibility," Manning said. "Obviously, I would've liked to have done my job better."

He drove them 78 yards in the fourth, and James Mungro capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run with 6:36 left that cut the lead to 24-17.

It wasn't enough.

McNair had no problems with the league's second-best pass defense, which had been giving up an average of 163.1 yards. He was 12-of-14 for 160 in the first half, and he helped the Titans pad their fourth-quarter lead by scrambling to set up Joe Nedney field goals from 35 and 29 yards.

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