McNair finds comfort zone

In Ravens debut, QB plays efficient, turnover-free game

Ravens Gameday

September 11, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

TAMPA, Fla. -- If Steve McNair doesn't feel like he has to prove that he can still play in the NFL, his performance yesterday may have spoken for him.

The Ravens quarterback put together a solid, if unspectacular, outing in helping the Ravens end an 11-game road losing streak with a 27-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

McNair, who was acquired in June to help inject some life into the team's lackluster offense, appeared composed and was generally mistake-free in his regular-season debut as Ravens quarterback.

What the 33-year-old former Tennessee Titan wasn't, however, was antsy about showing to the rest of the country that he is still a quality quarterback.

"This team knows what I can do. It's the people that are outside looking in that don't know what I can do," McNair said. "I'm still able to play this game at a high level, and that was shown today because of what we've done. ... I'm happy to be a part of this organization, to go out and have the people around me that still believe that I can play football."

McNair was a model of efficiency, completing 63 percent of his passes (17 of 27), including a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox in the fourth quarter, and finishing with a 94.8 passer rating.

He threw for only 181 yards and fumbled once while attempting a pass, but McNair did not get intercepted and occasionally threw the ball away rather than force something against Tampa Bay's defense.

"I'm very comfortable," McNair said. "It was just a matter of going out there and taking what the defense gave us. They weren't going to give us the big plays downfield with the cover-2 [defense] that they play a lot. We just had to go out and relax and just take what they gave us and get the ball into the guys' hands. We've got a lot of weapons on this team."

McNair did a fair job of spreading the wealth. Tight end Todd Heap was McNair's favorite target with five receptions. Wide receiver Derrick Mason caught four, Wilcox three and wide receiver Mark Clayton two.

McNair's signature style was evident in the team's opening drive, which consumed 9:16. The Ravens mixed the run (eight plays) and the pass (six plays), and the offense gained four first downs with three passes from McNair to Mason and an incompletion from McNair to Mason that drew a pass-interference call on Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber.

"I saw [his confidence] when he first came out and we were able to chew up almost 10 minutes on the first drive," Mason said. "You knew that Steve, that old Steve, was there. The way he commanded the huddle, the way he methodically drove us down the field, handing the ball off to [running back] Jamal [Lewis], throwing it to Todd, throwing the ball to myself, we were able to get big chunks of yards."

Those yards may have helped keep the Ravens' defense fresh in its first shutout since 2003. McNair's outing was not lost on a few Tampa Bay players.

"Steve's a tremendous athlete, a tremendous leader," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "[He's] a veteran quarterback that didn't turn the ball over."

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