NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Steve McNair slammed onto the ground
with the ball near his surgically repaired chest. When he bounced
up and went back to the huddle, the Tennessee Titans and thousands
of their fans exhaled.
McNair, the co-MVP of 2003 who missed eight games last season
because his aching chest wouldn't let him breathe without pain,
praised the Titans' new offense with Norm Chow. He also expects
much more from a team that went 5-11 last season and had a salary
cap purge this offseason.
"We did some good things," McNair said. "We had a couple of
turnovers, but that's to be expected early in the preseason. We
don't think this is a rebuilding stage. We expect to go out and
execute each week."
Rob Bironas, competing against Ola Kimrin for the open kicker
job, made a 53-yard field goal with 19 seconds left that tied the
game at 17 and forced overtime. The Titans couldn't move the ball
after winning the toss and had to punt.
The Bucs set up Bryant by taking advantage of a 33-yard pass
interference call on Titans cornerback Antoine Harris. Earnest
Graham, starting in place of top draft pick Carnell Williams, then
ran for 24 yards.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden wasted no time in sending out Bryant
to end the game.
"That was a gut check to say the least," Gruden said.
The exhibition opener for both teams was the first test for
McNair whose season ended last December when doctors tried to fix
the problem by grafting a sliver of bone from his right hip to his
chest. He spent the offseason working out and dropped 25 pounds
before training camp and his 11th NFL season.
McNair didn't wait long to make sure the repair took. He
scrambled twice, the last for three yards ending with Bucs
cornerback Jermaine Phillips knocking him out of bounds at the
"I needed to take that first hit," McNair said. "I didn't
want to go the whole preseason without taking that first hit. It
felt good to go out and compete."
He was 7-of-10 for 67 yards passing and one interception with
Tennessee trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Titans were happy to see McNair moving around even though he
took on Phillips rather than slide.
"He said if it would've been anybody other than the defensive
back he would've slid, but he figured he had some size on him,"
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "He feels good, got some kinks
worked out and some problems, made some nice throws and was
managing the offense well."
That's the offense as run by Chow in his NFL debut after 32
seasons coaching some of the best offenses in college. The Titans
held the ball for more than 17 minutes in the first half. They also
mixed in lots of planned rollouts by McNair, short and deep passes
with two turnovers.
Tampa Bay had an impressive opening drive even with Mike Alstott
watching and Gruden holding out Williams for the Bucs' home
exhibition opener next week.
"We wanted Cadillac to watch this game tonight and get in there
for one play," Gruden said. "We faked it to him."
Gruden also subbed out for two of his starting offensive
linemen, and Tampa Bay opened with a 70-yard drive helped by two
Tennessee penalties, including a 31-yard defensive pass
interference on Tony Beckham. He started with top draft pick Adam
"Pacman" Jones still holding out for a contract, and he drew the
penalty guarding Michael Clayton.
Graham scored on a 10-yard run on the very next play for a 7-0
"I like the way we started," Gruden said. "It was a great
first drive. A couple of key drops stymied some opportunities that
we had. We are doing some good things, but we have a long way to
Simms had trouble moving the Bucs until the third quarter with
some help from Derek Watson who ran for 42 yards in a 64-yard
drive. Simms found Graham at the pylon for a 5-yard TD and a 14-7
lead with 8:17 to go.
He finished 8 of 11 for 54 yards. Todd France added a 35-yard
field goal that put the Bucs up 17-14 in the fourth.
Tennessee got on the board three plays after McNair's
interception thanks to a defense that lost five starters this
offseason. Defensive end Antwan Odom hit Chris Simms as he threw,
and linebacker Keith Bulluck picked off the pass and ran it back 29
yards for the touchdown and a 7-7 tie at the start of the second
The Bucs' banged-up offensive line got worse. LT Sean
Mahan, who started for Derrick Deese, sprained an elbow, and G Jeb
Terry hurt his left medial collateral ligament in his knee and will
be out a couple weeks. ... Titans RB Travis Henry has some mild
turf toe, WR Brandon Jones bruised his knee and RB Chris Brown and
FS Lamont Thompson were held out with tight hamstrings.
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