AFC South Time Machine: Tennessee Titans' Forgotten Game
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The games worth remembering aren't always the "important" ones.
The 2003 Titans were a strong team nearing the end of an impressive run. Led by Steve McNair, they were in the mix in a dominant AFC. Though they lost a heart-breaker in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Patriots, they were a squad that lives in the hearts of Titans' fans.
2003 was the culmination of the career of McNair. He lead the league in passer rating and shared the MVP award with Peyton Manning, despite missing two games with injury. His share of the trophy was secured on a Sunday afternoon in Houston.
Needing a win to clinch a playoff berth and keep pace with the Colts, Tennessee looked to finish off the lowly Texans just before Christmas. The Titans largely controlled the action in the first half, but a Marlon McCree pick-six tied the score in the third quarter.
The Texans threatened to take the lead at 17-10, driving into Titans' territory, but Domanick Davis fumbled and Samari Rolle scooped it up and ran it back 61 yards for the score.
The Texans responded with a nice touchdown drive, but early in the fourth quarter, McNair and Eddie George combined to get the ball inside the five-yard line with the score tied at 17-17. The drive died thanks to a holding penalty, but the field goal put Tennessee ahead with 12 minutes left.
It seemed like the Titans' defense was going to hold the rest of the game. They forced consecutive three-and-outs, and with 2:50 left, needed only one more stop to clinch the playoff spot. Little did they know that Carr was about to light them up.
In just two passes, the Texans piled up 60 yards. Davis pitched in another 20 on the ground, and in just under a minute, Houston had taken a 24-20 lead.
Tennessee's offense had just 1:42 left on the clock, and 75 yards between them and a playoff spot. McNair acted fast, hitting Drew Bennett twice for big yardage. With :37 to play, the Titans had moved all the way down to the Houston 23.
A spike and two incompletions later, and the Titans still hadn't budged.
Fourth and 10, less than 30 seconds left. If ever there was an MVP moment, it was this.
McNair dropped back to throw and found Bennett again, open in the back left corner of the end zone. With Gus Johnson screaming, "There's your MVP!" into the microphone, McNair had delivered the winning score.
Funny thing is, that game didn't end up mattering at all. If the pass had been incomplete, the Titans still would have made the playoffs. They didn't win the division anyway. That pass changed nothing.
Except the MVP vote.
McNair wasn't sharp that day. He was still battling injuries and completed less than 50% of his passes and also threw a bad pick.
But he also delivered when it counted.
We don't remember games because they matter.
They matter because we remember them.
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