Home Dog Tennessee Looks to Upset Former Titan McNair and The Ravens
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While it may be a homecoming for quarterback Steve McNair on Sunday when his Baltimore Ravens play the Tennessee Titans, it will only be a happy one for him if he can beat his former team.
Originally the third overall pick from Alcorn State in 1995 while the franchise was still located in Houston, McNair was gradually worked into the starter's role before taking over full-time in 1997, the team's first season in Tennessee (2-6).
He built a legacy as a gritty, tough quarterback for the Titans, overcoming a slew of injuries to lead them to playoff berths in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.
Although he shared the 2003 NFL MVP with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, McNair's best season may have been in 1999, when he led the Titans to the Super Bowl and guided them on a potential game-tying drive in the final minutes that ended one yard shy of the end zone.
``They're just so many of those memories and there is so much about what Steve has done that you never would have got a feel for,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher told baltimoreravens.com. ``The things that he did to get on the field and the things that he did to play were amazing. So many games that he lined up as a starting quarterback where nobody else in the league would have lined up and played through the different type of injuries.
``He's a very courageous example for the youngsters to look up to.''
Despite his legacy and accolades, McNair saw his relationship with the Titans end acrimoniously in the offseason. The Titans, who had drafted Vince Young with the third overall pick, tried to reduce McNair's $9 million salary for this season as well as a $23.46 million charge against the salary cap after renegotiating his contract in previous seasons.
When negotiations hit an impasse in early April, the Titans barred McNair from working out at the team's facilities, a decision the league overturned in June after McNair filed a grievance. The veteran quarterback began talking to the Ravens (6-2) in late April, and the deal was completed in June after he agreed to an $11 million signing bonus with a $1 million salary for 2006.
McNair, who is the Titans' all-time leader in completion percentage and passer rating as well as being second in passing yards (27,141) and third in touchdown passes (156), admitted his emotions should be running high until the game gets underway.
``It will probably be emotional when the plane lands,'' McNair said. ``The fans will probably have some mixed emotions, too. They want to see me do well, but don't want their team to lose. Once the national anthem is over with and that ball is kicked off, everything will go back to normal.''
While the Titans were able to let him go after drafting Young as their quarterback of the future, McNair has enjoyed a resurgence with the Ravens, who are equally appreciative of having him bring consistency to an offense that has finally relieved some of the pressure off their vaunted defense.
McNair completed 21 of 31 passes for 245 yards as Baltimore opened a two-game lead in the AFC North with a 26-20 victory over Cincinnati last Sunday. Jamal Lewis rushed for a touchdown as the Ravens maintained their offensive consistency for a second straight game after coach Brian Billick took over play-calling duties following the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.
``Huge win for us in the division,'' said Billick, whose offense has five touchdowns in the last two games after producing 10 in the first six. ``It puts us in a position to go forward and do some good things.''
Lewis has re-emerged as a workhorse running back the last two games, getting 55 carries for 181 yards. After coming off a career-low 906 yards last season, he has 533 through Baltimore's eight games.
Young continues to have an uneven rookie season. He is coming off perhaps his worst performance as a starter, completing just 15 of 36 passes for 163 yards and getting intercepted three times in Tennessee's 27-7 loss at Jacksonville last Sunday.
The three interceptions nearly doubled his season total, and the Titans were limited to 262 total yards. Fisher is hoping his receivers, who dropped numerous passes in the loss, can regroup and help out Young this weekend.
``When the pocket's collapsing and you need to be some place, you need to be some place because he's expecting you to be there,'' Fisher said. ``If the route's run incorrectly, he anticipates something and lets the ball go.''
Defensively, the Titans will have cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones back in the lineup after he served a one-game suspension for a series of off-field incidents, including one for which he will be booked Nov. 17 for misdemeanor assault after allegedly spitting on a woman.
``Pac joined the team this morning,'' Fisher said Monday. ``He participated in the shakeout. He joined the defense in the film review. He's back now and participating 100 percent with everything we do.''
While the Titans allowed only 177 yards passing, Jones' teammates felt his absence was exploited as the Jaguars picked on his backup, Andre Woolfolk.
``To be 100 percent honest, there were plays out there I feel Pac would make,'' linebacker Keith Bulluck said. ``But at the same time, Pac wasn't there. He wasn't there. I'm sure he sat home and watched the game and saw where his presence was missed.''
In the most recent meeting between these teams, McNair threw for 195 yards and a touchdown as Tennessee won 25-10 on Sept. 18, 2005. Lewis was held to nine yards on 10 carries, and the Ravens had just 182 total yards.
By: Michael Cash - theSpread.com - Email Us
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