Titans work  overtime to top Steelers

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   NASHVILLE--One thing's for certain, the Pittsburgh Steelers will always remember these Titans.
   In an event that was plagued with bad officiating, arguing teams and angry fans, the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers put on one heck of a show at The Coliseum in Nashville on Sunday.
   However, after the dust settled and the fireworks flew, the Tennessee Titans escaped the clutches of overtime after a penalty was called for running into the kicker.
   Joe Nedney then proceeded to nail a 26-yard field goal to give Tennessee the 34-31 victory.
   "We don't get second chances very often and I didn't expect another one," Nedney said. "Sorry if I gave everybody gray hairs. ... I went from the worst kick of my life to a guy smacks me in the ankle and I get a second chance."
   But that's just part of this amazing tale.
   In the first quarter of the contest, Tennessee virtually dominated all aspects of the football game. They opened with a Samari Rolle interception off of Pittsburgh's Tommy Maddox and blasted down the field with some solid runs from Eddie George, leading to an 8-yard Steve McNair touchdown.
   After an impressive defensive stall, the Titans decided to pass on this possession with some nice receptions from Drew Bennett and Frank Wycheck before Eddie George plunged into the end zone to take a quick 14-0 lead.
   The game appeared to be in the Titans' hands. However, that was about to change.
   The Titan defense made another impressive stall to open the second quarter, but an Eddie George fumble on their first offensive play of the next drive put the Steelers in scoring position.
   Nice grabs from Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Maddox to Hines Ward.
   Tennessee lost possession again, as Steve McNair was picked off by Chad Scott. It would cost the Titans three more points as Jeff Reed hit a 30-yard field goal.
   It was soon thereafter when the Steelers took possession again. Two questionable penalties gave Pittsburgh another field goal shot, and Reed connected on the 39-yarder to exit the first half trailing Tennessee by a point.
   The Titans opened with possession in the second half, and Eddie George fumbled it again, after receiving a strong blow on the ground. On the very next play, Amos Zereoue scrambled 31 yards and gave the Steelers their first lead of the game.
   Frank Wycheck came alive for the Titans with three big grabs during their next drive. Wycheck made a big 39-yard play on a third down situation, and then scored two plays later on a 7 yard pass from McNair.
   Before you could blink, Tennessee was in scoring position again only with Derek Mason making the solid grabs. It led to a 2-yard touchdown pass from McNair to Erron Kinney sealing an 8-point lead.
   Then the game turned into an episode of WWE Monday Night RAW.
   After stalling the Steelers, Tennessee got a big boost from Mason, who returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown. Or so everyone in the building thought.
   Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher got in his first major argument with referee Ron Blum, alleging that Mason's knee had hit the ground. Blum made fun of Cowher's decision to throw the red flag, but was proven wrong and the score came back.
   Each team traded sides before the Steelers got two big plays from Terance Mathis and Hines Ward, setting up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Maddox to Ward.
   Tennessee turned it over again when Steve McNair lobbed an interception to Deshea Townsend.
   One play would give the Titans the momentum they needed.
   Maddox aired out a pass to Ward on the first play of the drive, when Ward was hit hard by Lance Schulters. The officiating crew said that it was a head-to-head hit, which caused a series of arguments between Maddox and Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher.
   The 35-yard penalty allowed Reed to give Pittsburgh another lead with a 40-yard field goal.
   Drew Bennett and Steve McNair bounced back offensively for Tennessee and drove down the field giving Joe Nedney a 42-yard field goal to tie the contest.
   A series of arguments and a missed kick from Nedney eventually put the game into overtime.
   In the extra period, McNair tossed Justin McCareins two nice passes to set up a Joe Nedney field goal. Pittsburgh called a timeout right before Nedney split the uprights and fireworks erupted in Nashville.
   However, Nedney was forced to kick again. This time he was ran into after a squabbly kick almost hit this sportswriter in the head. The penalty set up another kick.
   Around the play, Pittsburgh tried to call a time out. They were never given the opportunity and Nedney took the win with his 26-yarder.
   "He got a pretty good hit on me, but I think when I'm done, I might try acting," said Nedney, referring to the way he fell to the ground.
   After the contest, Maddox and Fisher got into it again and Cowher grabbed referee Blum by the shirt collar as a big spectacle broke loose.
   "For a game to be decided on that call is ludicrous," Cowher said. "And for me to have to explain to an official what's reviewable and what's not is wrong. Fine me if you want. That's the truth."
   But the one thing that is for certain: the Tennessee Titans are going to play in the AFC Championship game.
   "This is very hard to swallow," Maddox said. "It's frustrating, it's heartbreaking."
   NOTES: More on the amazing contest will be in tomorrow's STAR, including a meeting with legendary coach and the Titans honorary captain for Sunday's game, Herman Boone and a players review.