Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stopped Short McNair Responds on NFL's Center Stage, Nearly Steals Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stopped Short McNair Responds on NFL's Center Stage, Nearly Steals Show

Article excerpt

ATLANTA --- The philosophy stayed the same, and the numbers did, too. That was the early Steve McNair story. Then, came the last 20 minutes.

McNair, Super Bowl hero?

That wasn't quite the late story, but McNair nearly made it so.

McNair, who struggled in the first half in the Tennessee Titans' ball-control offense, nearly was the hero in the biggest game of his career, passing and running the Titans to a dramatic rally in a 23-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV last night at the Georgia Dome.

"We came up short," said McNair, a fifth-year quarterback who overcame a 65-yard passing effort in the first half to lead three late scoring drives. "There were two good teams out there fighting.

"The bad thing about this game is somebody's got to lose."

The Titans nearly didn't lose because the game was vintage Titans, who talked all week of being a team of destiny. Down 16-0 in the third quarter, they rallied largely because of McNair, who spent the last 20 minutes proving what his teammates said throughout the week he could do:

Forced to make plays in crucial situations, he did.

"I believe you saw the real Steve McNair tonight," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

And he not only did it with his legs, as he did against the Jaguars last week in the AFC Championship game, he did it with his arm, too.

"Steve is a warrior," Titans running back Eddie George said. "I couldn't be more proud of him."

McNair, who passed for just 300 total yards in the Titans' three playoff victories and never threw for more than 120, didn't match the gaudy numbers of Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, but he played his best game of the playoffs as a passer.

He completed 22 of 36 for 214 yards --- even with the Titans' sticking to their conservative, ball-control philosophy --- and 52 came on a frenzied, final drive that ended with the Titans on the Rams 1.

"In the first half, we did a lot of good things to move the football," McNair said. …

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