Backup keys rally, D stops tying two


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans thought until
kickoff that injured Steve McNair would start. He didn't, and
backup Billy Volek made sure his absence didn't hurt them -- even
though Volek was ill himself.

Question on the Bills: How do you think the Henry-McGahee situation will play out?
As well as he's been playing, a healthy Travis Henry gives the Bills another year for Willis McGahee to work out the kinks. Then, after next year, they can assess whether McGahee will be their running back of the future. Or, they could go to a two-back tandem which is very popular now. But, a lot will depend on who's coaching the Bills and what type of system he'll run. Right now, though, Henry is a vital part to the Bills' success.

Question on the Titans: Have the nagging injuries to McNair prematurely ended their season?
McNair's injuries haven't ended the Titans' season, but they're certainly not as strong as they were three weeks ago. What's unfortunate is that the injuries have deterred McNair's MVP season. He can't be voted MVP if he's not able to play, and that's too bad because he was having a terrific season. Over the next couple of weeks, McNair will get back into the flow of things. The Titans' win wrapped up their Wild Card spot, so I'm sure he's excited about the possibility of getting back into the playoffs.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

In his first NFL start, Volek threw for two touchdowns and ran
for another as Tennessee snapped a two-game losing streak by
rallying for a 28-26 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

"What can you say about Billy's effort?" Titans coach Jeff
Fisher said. "That is a very tough defense to throw against. Billy
hung in there and took a lot of hits. He made big plays."

Volek, a four-year veteran who was undrafted out of Fresno
State, filled in ably against the NFL's second-best defense even
though he had flu-like symptoms the past few days. He was 26-of-41
for 295 yards in helping the Titans hold the ball for nearly 37

"Obviously, my emotions were running pretty high," Volek said.
"I found out about an hour before the game after warmups that I
was probably going to go."

Volek didn't eat or drink much Sunday and got dizzy in the
shower after the game. He even received intravenous fluids.

Buffalo had one last chance to force overtime when Drew Bledsoe
drove the Bills 81 yards in nine plays before finding Mark Campbell
on a 6-yard TD toss with 24 seconds left.

But Bobby Shaw couldn't control a low pass in the right corner
of the end zone on the 2-point conversion try. Shaw said he caught
the ball, but it was ruled incomplete. A replay review didn't help.

Erron Kinney recovered the Bills' onside kick to clinch the

Buffalo coach Gregg Williams said he couldn't wait to see the
film, and Bledsoe said it looked like a tremendous catch.

"We've seen that kind of ruling a number of times this year
with our team, other teams. If you don't possess the ball the whole
way down, then they call it incomplete," Bledsoe said.

Said Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck: "It was real close. I'm
not certain at all. I'm glad I didn't have to make the call."

Tennessee (10-4) remains the AFC's top contender for a wild-card
berth, but Cincinnati's 41-38 victory over San Francisco delayed
the Titans from clinching their fourth postseason berth in five

The Titans eliminated Buffalo (6-8) by ending the Bills'
two-game winning streak.

Fisher was stung by three fumbles lost on special teams in last
week's 29-27 loss to Indianapolis, so he took no chances, using
Derrick Mason, a Pro Bowl returner in 2000.

Mason caught nine passes for 137 yards and had 165 yards
combined on kick and punt returns, which he hadn't done
consistently since 2001. Gary Anderson added two field goals.

Buffalo had four sacks, including one resulting in Volek's
fumble that Pat Williams returned 28 yards for a TD and a 17-6 lead
in the third quarter. But the Bills' defense, which hadn't allowed
a team to top 20 points since a loss to Kansas City on Oct. 26,
couldn't compensate for an offense that failed to hold a 10-6
halftime lead.

Tennessee sacked Bledsoe three times and held the Bills to 241
yards. The Titans also improved its NFL-best streak to 28 straight
games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Tennessee held Travis
Henry to 88 yards.

McNair dressed despite being on crutches until midweek with a
cracked bone spur in his left ankle. He didn't start, snapping his
43-game consecutive starts streak.

It was Bulluck's sack and his recovery of Bledsoe's fumble at
the Bills 18 that got the Titans going in the third. Three plays
later, Volek found Erron Kinney for a 14-yard TD toss. A 2-point
conversion made it 17-14.

Volek was 5-of-6 for 51 yards on the next drive, which he capped
with a 2-yard TD pass to Justin McCareins for a 21-17 lead in the
fourth period.

Volek provided the winning margin with his 1-yard TD run with
4:23 left.

Game notes
McNair didn't play for the first time since Sept. 23, 2001,
when a sore right shoulder sidelined him. ... Bills DE Aaron
Schobel had two sacks, giving him a career-high with 10{ for the
season. He becomes only the fifth in Bills history with 10 or more
sacks in a season, joining Bruce Smith, Bryce Paup, Phil Hansen and
Marcellus Wiley. ... Mason's 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter
put him over 1,100 yards for the second time in his career. He
joins Drew Hill, Tim Smith and Charlie Hennigan as the only
receivers in franchise history to do that. ... Bills running back
Willis McGahee was deactivated.


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