McNair Airs It Out To Top Bengals


The Tennessee Oilers finally are winners in their new hometown.

The

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  • Oilers, who had lost their first two games in Nashville, scored on their first six possessions in routing the Cincinnati Bengals 44-14 Sunday. The team that moved from Houston in 1997 played in Memphis last season.

    "We talked about this before the game, that we had to establish a home field," said safety Blaine Bishop. "That's what we set out to do today. We executed real well in all phases and were able to do that.

    "Hopefully, it's going to continue into next week's game."

    The Oilers made themselves comfortable at their temporary home in Vanderbilt Stadium with the eighth-best offensive performance in franchise history, totaling 515 yards.

    Steve McNair, with his two starting receivers out with injuries and bandaged from wrist to elbow, had one of the best games of his career. He ran for a touchdown and threw for another.

    Al Del Greco kicked three field goals and backup running back Mike Archie even got into the action with an 18-yard TD toss.

    Cincinnati coach Bruce Coslet said the Oilers simply whipped his Bengals.

    "It's hard to win a game when they score every time they touch the ball in the first half," he said.

    Maybe it was a letdown from last week's last-second victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Bengals (2-4) couldn't get anything going behind Neil O'Donnell and Carl Pickens.

    O'Donnell, the AFC's highest-rated quarterback, repeatedly overthrew receivers. He lost Cincinnati's first fumble this season in the third quarter when sacked by Darryll Lewis. Joe Bowden picked off the ball in the air and scored from 12 yards, giving the Oilers a 30-0 lead.

    "We went from on extreme to the next," said cornerback Artrell Hawkins.

    It hadn't looked so promising for the Oilers (3-3) before the game.

    Coach Jeff Fisher wasn't sure if McNair's elbow would let him play, and receivers Willie Davis (chest) and Pro Bowler Yancey Thigpen (hip) were both deactivated. Rookie Kevin Dyson and second-year Isaac Byrd wound up making the first starts of their NFL careers.

    Oilers/Bengals
    Carl Pickens' pass receptions were few and far between from a struggling Neil O'Donnell. (AP)

    "You definitely want them in the game, but we have confidence in the younger guys," said tight end Frank Wycheck.

    McNair huddled with his receivers before kickoff and told them to just have fun. The replacements did just fine, with plenty of help from McNair and Eddie George.

    The Oilers wound up controling the clock for 36:55. They also scored their most points since December 1991, when they beat the Raiders 47-17.

    McNair scored on a 1-yard run and tossed a 45-yarder to Dyson, and he finished 16-of-21 for 277 yards for the second-best outing of his career. George had his third 100-yard game this season with 25 carries for 107 yards.

    Byrd and Dyson combined for nine catches and 135 yards, while eight players caught passes.

    "I have to give them credit, because they went out there relaxed ... and they did all that we asked them to," said McNair.

    The Bengals got into Tennessee territory only once before halftime and had only 72 yards total offense. When they got their offense going, it was too late. Corey Dillon scored Cincinnati's first TD on a 12-yard run with 6:11 left in the third and cut the score to 30-7.

    O'Donnell did find Damon Gibson on a 76-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, but he found himself on the bench for Jeff Blake late in the game. O'Donnell wound up 11-of-22 for 192 yards.

    "They're a good football team. I'll give them that," O'Donnell said. "I know what type of defense they have. They (still) gave us some problems."

    The final score could have been even worse. The Oilers thought they scored on a 76-yard fumble return by Josh Evans in the third quarter and even lined up to kick the extra point. But the officials held a second conference and ruled O'Donnell's pass to Dillon had been incomplete before the fumble.

    Gregg Williams, the Oilers' defensive coordinator, said he thought the officials watched the replay on the big screen in the end zone.

    "They changed their minds," he said.

    Notes

  • The Oilers swept the season series with the Bengals for the first time since 1993 and now lead the overall series 31-29-1.
  • McNair's TD in the second quarter was the 12th touchdown rushing of his career nd second this season. The Oilers' 9-minute, 28-second drive in the second quarter was their longest this season.
  • The victory also was the first time the Oilers have won consecutive games since last November.
  • The Bengals came in with the NFL's lowest number of turnovers with one and had not fumbled in their five previous games. They wound up with one.
  • Beating Pittsburgh hasn't been good luck for Cincinnati, which has lost after each of its last six victories over Pittsburgh, dating back to 1989.

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