By: Ian Logue/
December 11, 2002

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FOXBORO,MA -- With their destiny firmly riding in their own hands, the Patriots returned to work on Wednesday facing a trip to Tennessee and a difficult Monday night game against a Titans team who has played well in recent weeks.

Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair is nursing a sore toe and sore ribs and reportedly sits out most of practice during the week, yet over the past two weeks has had quarterback ratings of 118.8 and 124.1 respectively while tossing a total of 4 touchdowns and passing for 571-yards with no interceptions including a performance last Sunday in which he had a career-high completion percentage of 82.6.

During that span he's also rushed for a total of 87-yards on 9-carries (9.7 yards-per-carry).

Not bad for a guy who's so beat up he can't even practice.

"It's almost like he lays on his death bed all week, and then gets up and goes and plays," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters on Wednesday. "Steve's obviously a tough guy. It doesn't look like he's too hurt out there, even though he probably is, it doesn't look like it."

One of the reasons why McNair has played so well is that since he can't practice head coach Jeff Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff has catered the offensive game plan to what McNair does best, instead of trying to change things each week which would be difficult since he can't take the reps he needs to in practice. While it has kept them from implementing new game plans it apparently hasn't worked out too poorly, after their 1-4 start they've won seven of their last eight and should the Titans beat New England and win the remainder of their games, the worst they could finish would be as the #2 seed in the AFC.

Needless to say the game plan will probably not be much different on Monday night against the Patriots.

"I think [the coaches] do a good job of just giving me the things that I do best during the course of a game," McNair told the media in a conference call on Wednesday. "When you've been doing something for so long, you know it doesn't take that much practice [to do it]. That's what we've been doing the past two weeks is doing the things that I know I can do without practice. I think if you put a new game plan in yes I'd need practice."

That may be an edge for New England who will likely be without linebacker Tedy Bruschi Monday night while he continues to recover from a knee injury he suffered back on Thanksgiving. Bruschi has been known for his ability to contain the likes of Kordell Stewart and Marshall Faulk, and his absence will have Bill Belichick working overtime this week as he works on coming up with enough of a wrinkle to make life difficult for Tennessee's offense.

"The thing that is such a challenge for you offensively is that what you see on film from the previous few weeks is not necessarily what you're going to get," Fisher told reporters on Wednesday. "They do a great job adjusting the window dressing and changing from a four-man line to a three-man line and the blitz scheme and the pressures, they do a great job with that. They're very innovative, and they take advantage of the strength of their individual players. They force you to do things that you're not used to doing. In a lot of ways, they have the ability to dictate on defense."

RB Eddie George Stats (Last Three Games)
AT BAL 16 61 3.8 10 0
vs. NYG 20 64 3.2 10 1
vs. IND 22 51 2.3 11 2

QB Steve McNair's Stats (Last Three Games)
AT BAL 43 21 283 1/15 0 40 3 41.1
vs. NYG 43 30 334 1/0 3 26 0 115.8
vs. IND 23 19 237 1/8 1 42 0 124.1


AT BAL: Totaled 402 total net yards on offense, scoring on just 4 field goals in a 13-12 loss to the Ravens. They allowed 95-yards rushing on 17-carries to Baltimore runningback Jamal Lewis (5.6 yards-per-carry). They dominated the time of possession 34:09-25:51.

VS NYG: TE Jeremy Shockey had seven catches for 71-yards for New York in a 32-29 loss to the Titans. Wide receiver Derrick Mason had 12-catches for 116-yards and a touchdown. The Titans again dominated the time of possession 35:47-29:13.

VS INDY: McNair's 49-yards rushing on 5-carries found him one yard shy of teammate Eddie George in a 27-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Titans still held the edge in time of possession 32:46-27:14, and were a staggering 8-of-12 (67%) on third down last Sunday.

PLAYER TO WATCH: FS Lance Shulters. He's made two interceptions in the last three games for Tennessee, and is currently tied for the NFL Lead with 6.