NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher sent backup quarterback Billy Volek in to handle the final snap Sunday, allowing Steve McNair to walk off the field to a standing ovation from the fans still in the stands.
The attention caught McNair by surprise.
“I didn’t know what was going on when I came out,” McNair said. “That was great and one of those moments you don’t see often in the NFL because the games seem to be almost tight. It was a great feeling just to come off the field and everybody give you a standing ovation.”
McNair earned it. He had a perfect quarterback rating in the first half, finished with a career-high 421 yards passing and threw three touchdowns to Derrick Mason as the Titans routed the Houston Texans 38-17 on Sunday.
He is used to coming out of the game with people worried because he’s been injured. But he has proven repeatedly in recent years his ability to ignore pain and play well, most recently last December when he went 5-0 despite not practicing for five straight weeks.
But now he is feeling pretty healthy, and he helped the Titans roll up 535 yards total offense, their highest total since November 1991 and their run-and-shoot days in Houston.
“I can’t say enough about the play of our quarterback and what he was able to do today,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “I was awfully proud of him. This was a difficult week for the offense.”
McNair gave credit to his offensive line for giving him time to find receivers working hard to be open downfield.
“When all I had to do is pitch and catch, that’s as simple as one, two, three. Those guys did a wonderful job for me,” McNair said.
The Titans (4-2) returned home for their only game in Nashville in October determined to erase the memory of last week’s loss at New England. It wasn’t hard against Houston (2-3) as Tennessee also intercepted three passes, returning one for a touchdown.
Houston coach Dom Capers said McNair was at the top of his game.
“This is the best I’ve seen him play. His experience is really paying off,” Capers said. “I think early in his career he was much quicker to pull the ball down and run with it. Now you see him doing a lot of bootlegs and things where he can avoid people in the pocket.”
Erron Kinney dropped McNair’s first pass on the Titans’ second play, but McNair completed his next 12, including TD passes of 32 and 46 yards to Mason for a quick 14-0 lead.
McNair had plenty of time to pass. When the Texans pressured him, McNair still completed his throws. He so frustrated Houston linebacker Antwan Peek that Peek pounded the ground in frustration after McNair threw a 7-yard completion to Mason.
Peek said McNair wore them out.
“We were right there, but he was just releasing it in time. Us rushers and linebackers blitzing, we can’t do it all by ourselves,” Peek said.
McNair finished the first half 11-of-12 for 233 yards and a perfect 158.3 rating, the third time in his career he has done that. He finished 18-of-27, which included a 50-yard TD to Mason at the start of the fourth quarter for a 30-10 lead.
The victory was the 80th for Fisher, making him the fourth-youngest coach to reach that total behind John Madden, Don Shula and Bill Cowher.
Texans running back Stacey Mack had boasted that they would try to do just what New England had done to the Titans, which was run for 161 yards. Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck had promised none of the Texans would top 100 yards, and the Titans backed him up, limiting the Texans to 91 yards rushing.
McNair also had a perfect rating against Pittsburgh on Nov. 25, 2001, and against Cleveland on Dec. 30, 2001. He also marked his second 300-yard passing game this season and ninth of his career. … Elvin Bethea, the former Houston Oilers defensive end, was presented his Hall of Fame ring at halftime. He was inducted into the hall this summer. … Mason topped 100 yards receiving for the first time this season and the ninth in his career. … Texans kicker Kris Brown scored in his 52nd straight game with a 29-yard field goal as thefirst half expired.