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TENNESSEE 25, OAKLAND 20

Titans Enjoy Kicks; Raiders Kick Selves

September 08, 2003|From Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans got some revenge against the Oakland Raiders thanks to an unlikely hero.

Steve McNair threw two touchdown passes and punter Craig Hentrich kicked three field goals while filling in for an injured Joe Nedney as the Titans downed the Raiders, 25-20, Sunday night.

"What can you say about our punter?" Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher said.

"When you're asked to do a job and all of a sudden you have to change gears and do something else, it's tough. For him to go three for three tonight, it says an awful lot about Craig. When we re-signed him this off-season, that was a huge move for us."

It was a messy opener that doubled as a rematch of last season's AFC championship game. The Titans came in wanting to avenge the loss that kept them from their second Super Bowl in four seasons -- and get a jump-start for this season. Oakland won the AFC title game, 41-24, in January and outscored the Titans, 93-49, in two meetings last season that featured plenty of Tennessee mistakes.

This game had lots of errors, too. The teams combined for 28 penalties for 284 yards, but it was the Raiders who hurt themselves over and over. Their share was 17 flags for 173 yards.

"We had opportunities to win," Oakland receiver Jerry Rice said. "It's just mistakes. Mistakes are killing us now."

The Raiders looked almost nothing like the team that had the NFL's best offense in 2002, until Rich Gannon found Tim Brown for a 25-yard touchdown that made it 22-20 with 3:30 left.

But McNair answered by driving the Titans 54 yards and set up Hentrich's third field goal himself with a 10-yard scramble. McNair completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards.

Hentrich was doing double duty because Nedney sprained his right knee on the kickoff after making a 50-yard field goal. Hentrich had three field goals in nine years before matching that total Sunday night.

Nedney also got hurt in the AFC title game and was replaced by Hentrich, who didn't make any field goals that time. Hentrich, who kicked field goals and punted at Notre Dame, said there must be something about the Raiders.

"I'm just honored that it happened tonight, and I feel very fortunate," said Hentrich, who made 39 field goals at Notre Dame.

But the Titans might be auditioning new kickers quickly. Fisher said Nedney hurt a medial collateral ligament and possibly his anterior cruciate ligament.

The Titans benefited from an officials' ruling in the fourth quarter. McNair found Derrick Mason at the back of the end zone with a three-yard toss, and Mason was pushed out of bounds by Oakland safety Anthony Dorsett before he got a foot down. Although replays showed Mason likely couldn't have gotten both feet in bounds for a catch, it was ruled a touchdown.

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