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Backup QB Volek Leads Titans Past Bills

December 14, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Steve McNair finally sat out a game with an injury. Backup Billy Volek made sure his absence didn’t hurt the Tennessee Titans. In his first NFL start, Volek threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Tennessee snapped a two-game losing streak by rallying for 28-26 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Buffalo had one last chance to force overtime when Drew Bledsoe drove the Bills 81 yards in nine plays before finding Mark Campbell on a 6-yard TD toss with 24 seconds left.

But Bobby Shaw couldn’t control a low pass in the right corner on the 2-point conversion try, and Erron Kinney recovered the Bills’ onside kick to clinch the victory.

Tennessee (10-4) remains the AFC’s top contender for a wild-card berth, but Cincinnati’s 41-38 victory over San Francisco delayed the Titans from clinching their fourth postseason berth in five years.

The Titans eliminated Buffalo (6-8) by ending the Bills’ two-game winning streak.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher was stung by three fumbles lost on special teams in last week’s 29-27 loss to Indianapolis, so he took no chances and used Derrick Mason, a Pro Bowl returner in 2000.

Mason caught nine passes for 137 yards and had 165 yards combined on kick and punt returns, which he hadn’t done consistently since 2001. Gary Anderson added two field goals.

Buffalo had four sacks, and Pat Williams returned a fumble by Volek 28 yards for a touchdown and a 17-6 lead in the third quarter. But the Bills defense, which hadn’t allowed a team to top 20 points since a loss to Kansas City on Oct. 26, couldn’t compensate for an offense that failed to hold a 10-6 halftime lead.

Tennessee sacked Bledsoe three times and held the Bills to 241 yards. The Titans also improved its NFL-best streak to 28 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Tennessee held Travis Henry to 88 yards.

McNair dressed despite being on crutches until midweek with a cracked bone spur in his left ankle. Tennessee didn’t announce until just before kickoff that Volek would start, snapping McNair’s 43-game consecutive starts streak.

Volek, a four-year veteran who was an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, filled in ably against the NFL’s second-best defense. He was 26-of-41 for 295 yards in helping the Titans hold the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

But it was Keith Bulluck’s sack and his recovery of Bledsoe’s fumble at the Bills 18 that got the Titans going in the third.

Three plays later, Volek found Erron Kinney for a 14-yard TD toss. A 2-point conversion made it 17-14. Volek was 5-of-6 for 51 yards on the next drive, which he capped with a 2-yard TD pass to Justin McCareins for a 21-17 lead in the fourth.

Volek provided the winning margin with his 1-yard TD run with 4:23 left.

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