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Dare McNair? No way

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(Oct. 23)--The answer is obvious; too obvious for any of the Tennessee Titans' five victims to have missed it.

How do you beat the Tennessee Titans? Dare McNair? No way. These days, the answer is "Stop McNair," which no team has done to date.

Steve McNair, once an interceptions-prone quarterback who was considered to be the weak link in the Titans offense, is now the team's greatest strength. He is the reason the Titans continue to win, despite a sagging running game and a pass-defense that is the league's second-worst.

How do you beat the Titans? Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant says the answer is even more specific than "Stop McNair." Bryant says the answer is, "Take away the deep ball."

McNair is the highest-rated passer in the AFC. At 106.8, he has only had one game this season in which his passer rating was under 90, and he threw for 391 yards in that game. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes against just two interceptions, and his average gain per pass play is a league-best 8.74 yards.

"You have to take away what they're doing well right now," Bryant said of McNair's flare for the deep pass. "That's usually not a high percentage pass," Bryant added.

But almost everything these days is high percentage for McNair. He's the hottest player in the league and he's coming to Jacksonville for this Sunday's grudge game between the 5-2 Titans and 1-5 Jaguars. But the game won't be televised locally, as it was announced this afternoon that more than 8,000 tickets remained on sale and, as a result, the game would be blacked out.

Bryant will be one of the key players for the Jaguars. Jason Craft is hobbled by a knee sprain and will probably be replaced at the other cornerback spot by rookie Rashean Mathis, and if that happens it's likely the Jaguars will offer Mathis help. And that may leave Bryant in single coverage.

But Bryant has been down this road before. He's a veteran of the Jaguars-Titans wars. As a rookie in 1999, Bryant arrived in Jacksonville just in time to experience the heartache of three losses to the Titans that season. And, making matters worse, Bryant is from Tennessee.

"They don't like us. I'm sure they don't like us. This game is more personal than most games. I don't think they really respect our players. Most teams have a genuine respect for players in the NFL. I just don't think they do (of us)," Bryant said.

"Everything starts from up top. The players express what the coach does," he added, referring to Titans coach Jeff Fisher's penchant for taking verbal shots at the Jaguars. It's how Fisher began this week.

"It would be huge to beat Tennessee. They're the hottest team in the league. It would pretty much make our season, no matter what happens the rest of this season," veteran wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.

That's how important this game is to the Jaguars. A win would make their season successful. Now all the Jaguars have to do is stop McNair.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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