MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL McNair leads Titans past Patriots
Tennessee has won eight of its last nine games.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Jevon Kearse gave the Tennessee Titans an emotional boost. Steve McNair took it and ran with it.
McNair ran for two touchdowns and the Titans rushed for 238 yards in beating the New England Patriots 24-7 Monday night. The victory puts a team that started 1-4 into a four-way tie for the best record in the AFC and playoff home-field advantage at 9-5.
"As Steve goes, this team goes," Titans receiver Derrick Mason said of the quarterback.
"Not just the offense, but the defense and the special teams all feed off of what Steve's doing. He played a great game. When he had to pull it down and run, he ran. When he had to scramble out and make a play with his arm, he did that, too."
Kearse brought the crowd to its feet when he was introduced before the game, the defensive end's first appearance since breaking his foot in the season opener.
But it was McNair, playing without practicing for a third straight week because of sore ribs, who gave the Titans a 14-0 halftime lead they never relinquished. He had used his arm in helping the Titans move atop the AFC South by sweeping the season series over Indianapolis.
Against the Patriots, he used his feet.
He ran on the Titans' first play. He ran on third down, broke a tackle on an 11-yard run and he even sneaked across the goal line on fourth-and-inches just before halftime for his second TD. Getting a hand on McNair wasn't enough as he ran six times for 49 yards, all in the first two quarters.
"We just couldn't tackle the guy," Patriots safety Victor Green said. "He's so strong, and he's fast. He's another running back back there, and if you don't get up there and wrap his legs up, you can be in for a long day."
Eddie George ran 31 times for 101 yards and Robert Holcombe added 85 as the Titans, the NFL's leader in time of possession, held the ball for a season-high 41 minutes, 30 seconds.
The defense sacked Tom Brady three times and intercepted him once as the Titans held New England to a season-low 176 yards offense. Rich Coady ended the Patriots' hopes of a comeback when he caught a pass that bounced off David Patten and ran 24 yards for a 21-7 lead in the third quarter.
"I've never been a part of a rushing effort like tonight in my eight years in the league," Titans end Kevin Carter said.
On a roll
The Titans have won three straight and eight of their last nine games in rebounding from their awful start. Credit Kearse for an early boost. The three-time Pro Bowl player came out of the tunnel, took off his helmet, fell to his knees to soak up the cheers and then ran through his waiting teammates.
He had only one tackle and played only in passing situations, but the Titans fed off the energy he brought to the stadium.
"Just his presence alone had an impact," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "It didn't affect us as much as it affected the offense. He plays on our team and the Patriots offense had to account for him. You have to respect Jevon. He's the Freak."
The Patriots (8-5) lost for the first time in December since Dec. 24, 2000. Coach Bill Belichick said the Titans simply outcoached and outplayed them in ending New England's three-game winning streak.
But the Patriots still can win the AFC East because they finish at home against the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins.
"We have to go back to the drawing board," running back Antowain Smith said. "We still have a chance, but we will have to go out there and play better in these last two weeks than we have ever played before."
Ten--McNair 11 run (Nedney kick), 12:16.
Ten--McNair 1 run (Nedney kick), :32.
NE--Brady 10 run (Vinatieri kick), 13:08.
Ten--Coady 24 interception return (Nedney kick), 9:58.
Ten--FG Nedney 28, 9:22.
Time of Possession18:3041:30
RUSHING--New England, A.Smith 6-31, Faulk 5-15, Brady 2-10. Tennessee, George 31-101, Holcombe 10-85, McNair 6-49, M.Green 1-3.
PASSING--New England, Brady 14-29-1-134, Davey 1-2-0-3. Tennessee, McNair 11-24-1-136.
RECEIVING--New England, Brown 8-73, A.Smith 2-41, Graham 2-8, Cleeland 1-10, Patten 1-5, Faulk 1-0. Tennessee, Mason 6-86, George 2-16, Bennett 1-16, Comella 1-9, Holcombe 1-9.
MISSED FIELD GOALS--Tennessee, Nedney 45 (WL).