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No contest for Titans: McNair is their undisputed MVP

Posted: Wednesday December 24, 2003 2:16PM; Updated: Wednesday December 24, 2003 2:16PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Listen to the Tennessee Titans talk about quarterback Steve McNair, and an image quickly forms: Superman.

McNair proved why he is so valuable to the Titans (11-4) last weekend when he started despite being hobbled by a cracked bone spur in his left ankle and a strained right calf.


The NFL's top-rated passer shook off the rustiness of two weeks without practice and led the Titans on a 75-yard touchdown drive and a 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans in just 91 seconds. But his teammates are used to seeing him play at his best when he hurts the most.

"He gives everything he has on every down, and he won't stop until we get the win," receiver Justin McCareins said. "He goes into the phone booth and pulls it out for us. We've gotten used to him doing amazing things."

The drive marked the 17th time in his nine-year career that McNair has led a scoring drive in the final two minutes. The Titans have lost only one of those games, and that was in 1998 at Seattle.

Tight end Frank Wycheck has been with McNair each of his nine seasons.

"It's good to know that any time he marches out onto that field, we've got a chance to win. He's just a winner. That's all you can say," Wycheck said.

McNair didn't decide he could even play against the Texans until before kickoff when a painkilling shot eased the discomfort in his ankle. He played -- and limped -- even with a brace wrapped heavily with tape protecting his ankle.

The Titans already had a playoff berth clinched when the Texans went ahead 24-20. But they wanted a victory as they head into the playoffs, and McNair knew how the drive would end as he walked onto the field.

"You envision yourself scoring touchdowns before you even get out there," he said. "That's what we did, and that is when we play our best."

McNair had only 1:42 left when he took the first snap.

He ignored his painful ankle as he bought time in completing 4-of-8 on the drive for 75 yards, including one clock-stopping spike. That included completions of 20, 24 and 23 yards to Drew Bennett, the last off his back foot for the winning TD with 17 seconds remaining.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8), who will have to try and stop McNair on Sunday in their regular season finale, took notice of what they called an MVP-worthy performance.

"When you're talking about a quarterback missing a week's practice, that's sick," Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "That's sick to be able to go out and play under those terms."

Said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden: "We've seen some really good players this year, and what McNair did last week with no practice, on one leg, taking his team 80 yards for a touchdown and throwing a play on the last play basically to win is signature MVP-type stuff."

That winning touchdown marked McNair's 24th this season, two better than his previous best of 22 last year. The NFL's top-rated quarterback at 100.4, he has only seven interceptions this season and also is the AFC's highest-rated passer in the fourth quarter (96.8) and on third downs (117.7). season.

Coach Jeff Fisher would love to rest McNair for the playoffs, but he said his quarterback gives the Titans their best chance to win -- even when hurt.

"He did some things in that last drive that were as good as he's done when he's healthy," Fisher said.

No wonder the Titans think McNair's so super.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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