By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
December 16, 2002

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NASHVILLE, TN -- The Tennessee Titans took a 14-0 halftime lead and controlled the clock against the defending Superbowl Champs on Monday night, beating them 24-7 in the Music City.

The Titans held the ball for nearly twice as long as New England, dominating the time of possession by an astounding 41:30 to 18:30. To make matters worse the Patriots offense couldn't seem to sustain a drive. They converted just 2-of-11 third down attempts, and ran just 47 plays compared to 74 for Tennessee, with the Titans having nearly twice as many first downs.

The Patriots also couldn't stop Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair, who had his way with the New England defense on the ground as the Titans quarterback piled up 49-yards rushing including two touchdowns, and finished the night 11-of-24 for 136-yards passing.

Tennessee moved the ball pretty much at will, with their offense racking up 242-yards rushing against a New England defense that had their problems stopping the run with the absence of linebacker Tedy Bruschi who was again inactive for the game with a knee injury. Titans runningback Robert Holcombe had 10 carries for 85-yards, while Eddie George carried the ball 31-times for 101-yards with McNair accounting for the rest.

The loss dropped the Patriots to 8-6 on the season, with two games left as they head home to take on the New York Jets next Sunday in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium.

Meanwhile Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished the night 14-of-29 for 134-yards with an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a quarterback rating of just 47.2. He had the lone Patriots points, rushing for a 10-yard touchdown on New England's first drive of the second half, and was replaced by rookie third-string quarterback Rohan Davey on their final possession when it was clear the game was out of hand.

The Titans had the football to start the game, and it appeared that New England may have had luck on their side after they caught a break on Tennessee's opening drive. Runningback Robert Holcombe broke off a 39-yard run which gave Tennessee the ball at the New England 29-yard line, but the drive stalled and they would have to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt that Joe Nedney missed wide left, and the Patriots took over on downs.

However New England couldn't take advantage of Nedney's miss, and the game's first points didn't come until Tennessee's third drive. A holding penalty by New England cornerback Ty Law on a 3rd-and-7 play at the Titans 45-yard line helped keep the drive going, and seven plays later quarterback Steve McNair broke away from the grasp of Tebucky Jones into the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown, giving Tennessee a 7-0 lead with 12:24 remaining in the first half.

On Tennessee's next possession the Patriots made their first big play of the night when Terrell Buckley picked off McNair as he attempted to complete a pass to Justin McCareins, but on the return Holcombe ripped the ball away from Buckley as he was going down and recovered the ball, giving the ball back to Tennessee.

Twelve plays later it was McNair going into the endzone again, this time on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, giving the Titans a 14-0 lead w/:37 left in the first half. Holcombe had just missed a touchdown one play earlier on a 4-yard run when Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy made a great play to knock him out of bounds just short of the goal line, and the officials reviewed the play but the call was upheld.

New England came out in the second half and tried to grab the momentum, as Tom Brady led the team down the field 69-yards on six plays, the last of which was Brady calling his own number and running the ball in from 10-yards out for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 14-7 with 13:08 left in the third quarter. Center Grey Ruegamer made a great block on free safety Richard Coady on the play, allowing Brady to score.

But after the Patriots defense forced a punt, Brady was intercepted on their first play from scrimmage while trying to connect with David Patten on a quick pass. The ball went off Patten's hands and bounced into the air where Coady came down with the football for the interception and he returned it 24-yards for a touchdown, and just like that Tennessee was back in control at 21-7 with 10:06 left in the third quarter.

The Titans final points came two possessions later, when Eddie George helped Tennessee take the ball 69-yards on a 15-play drive that lasted nearly 9 ˝ minutes and ended in a 28-yard field goal, increasing the lead to 24-7 with 9:26 left in the game.

From that point on Brady and the Patriots offense couldn't convert a third down, punting on one possession on a three-and-out, and then failing to convert on a third and then a fourth down play on the next.

Realizing the game was out of hand head coach Bill Belichick took most of his starters out of the game on their final possession, letting Rohan Davey take the final snaps before time expired.

GAME NOTES: Both offensive linemen Joe Andruzzi and Kenyatta Jones left the game with injuries on Monday night, which put New England in tough shape. It left the Patriots having to move Damien Woody to right guard with Adrian Klemm coming in and playing right tackle, and Grey Ruegamer filling in at center….Otis Smith injured his right shoulder with just under a minute left in the third quarter and left the game. Leonard Myers replaced him at right corner……Linbacker Ted Johnson led the team with 12 combined tackles. Lawyer Milloy was second with 11.....The Patriots did not score on their opening drive for the first time in five games.....New England lost the opening coin toss for just the third time all season. They had actually won it nine straight weeks, beginning in week two against the New York Jets, and ending in week 11 when they lost it against Minnesota. Inactives for the game were RB J.R. Redmond, LB Tedy Bruschi, T Greg Robinson-Randall, OL Tom Ashworth, WR Deion Branch, DL Rick Lyle, DL Bernard Holsey.


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