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McNair makes triumphant return to Tennessee

Nov 12, 2006 - 9:50 PM NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Steve McNair made a triumphant return to Tennessee. Derrick Mason shared in the celebration.

McNair hit Mason with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Baltimore Ravens to a come-from-behind 27-26 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

It was the third scoring pass of the game for McNair, who threw for a season-high 373 yards against his former team.

Thanks to McNair, who was acquired by Baltimore from the Titans last June for a fourth-round pick in 2007, the Ravens (7-2) are off to the best start in franchise history and own a commanding three-game lead over Cincinnati in the AFC North.

"It was very emotional for me," McNair sad. "The fans here still love me and I love the fans. I am just on the opposite side of the field now."

A three-time Pro Bowler and a co-MVP in 2003, McNair spent his first 11 seasons with the Titans and compiled a record of 81-59 as a starter. In the 1999 season, McNair led the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV, where they lost to St. Louis, 23-16.

Along with ranking second in Titans history in passing yards (27,141) and third in touchdown passes (156), McNair also rushed for 3,439 yards - the fourth-highest in NFL history.

But it appeared that McNair's return would be upstaged by Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young, the third overall pick in the draft. Using his dynamic athletic ability, Young rushed for a two-yard touchdown and escaped blitzing linebacker Adalius Thomas and pitched the ball to tight end Bo Scaife for another 13-yard scoring play as the Titans (2-7) built a 26-7 lead.

But McNair remained unflappable and spearheaded the biggest comeback in Ravens' history.

"That's why we play this game," McNair said. "We get paid to come back and win games.

"I have never seen anyone with such amazing calmness," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "At no point did I ever see him raise an eyebrow. There were several times out there when an eyebrow should have been raised."

On the winning drive, McNair lofted a perfect 34-yard pass down the right sideline to rookie Demetrius Williams, who beat cornerback Reynaldo Hill. Two plays later, McNair fired a pass over the middle to Mason, another former Titan.

"It's a great feeling for me and him (Mason) to come back here in Tennessee and have a touchdown catch in the game," McNair said. "We knew on that play we could get them to jump the tight end and get Mase behind them."

"(Tight end) Todd Heap did a great job releasing from the line and drew the safety in," said Mason, who caught 406 passes for Tennessee from 2000-04. "Steve threw a perfect ball so it was just a play that was meant to happen. It was a little sweeter knowing where it happened, and it being the go-ahead score."

Young idolized McNair as a youth and nearly stole the spotlight from him. On Tennessee's final possession, Young hit Bobby Wade with an 18-yard pass and scrambled for 17 yards to set up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Rob Bironas.

But Trevor Pryce blocked the kick to preserve Baltimore's third straight win.

"I just have long arms," Pryce said.

Bironas earlier made a 21-yard field goal, but was wide right on a 41-yard attempt.

Young threw for 211 yards with one interception and rushed for 39 yards.

"You can just see the confidence in Steve," Young said. "One day I'll get to that point as well."

The loss especially stung Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who guided the franchise to the Super Bowl in the 1999 season with McNair as his quarterback.

"Over the last few years we have had some difficult losses and this one would rank right up there at the top, considering the circumstances, considering who we were playing," Fisher said. "When you have a chance to win the game, you have to take advantage of it."

The Titans did take advantage of the absence of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was sidelined with a back injury. They rushed for 162 yards, including 107 on 27 carries by Travis Henry.

Henry's one-yard scoring run with 9:51 left in the second quarter gave Tennessee its biggest lead, 26-7.

McNair hit Mark Clayton with a 65-yard touchdown pass with 9:30 left in the first quarter, but he was also intercepted twice by safety Lamont Thompson and stepped out of the end zone for a safety after being rushed by linebacker Keith Bulluck.

The Ravens' comeback started when McNair hit fullback Ovie Mughelli with a 30-yard touchdown pass with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter. It was Mughelli's first career TD.

"It was very surreal, actually," Mughelli said. "Once I saw the goal line I started pumping my feet so hard. I might have even closed my eyes."

Matt Stover kicked a 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half to pull the Ravens within 26-17.

After an interception by safety Ed Reed, Stover kicked a 40-yard field goal 54 seconds into the fourth quarter.

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