NASHVILLE, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Joe Nedney kicked a 49-yard field goal 2:38 into overtime Sunday to give the Tennessee Titans their first win of the season, a 31-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winners of a league-high 26 games over the last two years, the Titans (1-3) lost their first three games to Miami, Jacksonville and Baltimore, scoring just 36 points.
Another loss would have virtually ended the season for the Titans. The last team to lose its first four games and still make the playoffs was the 1992 San Diego Chargers.
"I can't tell you how hard that was on our football team but they never thought the alternative the whole ballgame," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
"I think we grew up a lot today," Titans tight end Frank Wycheck said. "We got back on track. It has been a long time (since we won) and 0-4 would have been really detrimental to this team."
With their season at stake, Tennessee repeatedly gave Tampa Bay (2-2) chances to get back in the game. The Titans allowed the Buccaneers to convert fourth downs on three of their touchdown drives, two of them with penalties.
An offside penalty by defensive end Kevin Carter nullified an interception by cornerback DeRon Jenkins and the Bucs capitalized as Brad Johnson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dave Moore with 54 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, tying the game.
In overtime, the defense forced a punt and the Titans took over on the Tampa Bay 48. Steve McNair's 15-yard pass to rookie Drew Bennett positioned Nedney for his third field goal of the game, a knuckleball that started out left but split the uprights.
"I learned from the kick before that I needed to play it out a little farther to the left and let the wind draw it in and it worked," said Nedney, who had missed one in regulation.
"I had a lot of confidence in Joe when he came in and made the game-winning kick," McNair said. "I was not going to lose confidence in Joe just becasue he missed that one kick."
McNair threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for 54 yards and a score. George rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown to help the Titans improve to 5-0 all-time at home against Tampa Bay.
"I think the outcome shows that you can overcome some mistakes and it's certainly nice to be talking about the mistakes we made after a victory," Fisher said.
"Our season was not on the line," George maintained. "We still have 12 games left to play."
Johnson threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, Keyshawn Johnson had eight catches for 140 yards and Warrick Dunn returned from a foot sprain to score twice for Tampa Bay, which managed just 24 yards on the ground.
"We played hard, we fought, but we didn't play well," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "We gave up 31 points and you're not going to win a lot games when you give up 31 points on the road."
George's four-yard touchdown run and McNair's conversion pass to Kevin Dyson gave the Titans a 28-14 lead with 7:53 left in the fourth quarter. But Jenkins interfered with Keyshawn Johnson on fourth down to keep alive a drive and Brad Johnson threw a six-yard scoring pass to Jacquez Green with 5:09 to go.
Nedney missed a 48-yarder with 2:11 left and the infraction by Carter -- who still does not have a sack this season -- gave the Bucs another chance. Johnson and Johnson hooked up on a 12-yard pass on fourth and 10 and the duo also connected on passes of 19 and 25 yards before Moore's catch.
McNair, who completed 15 of 23 passes, threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Dyson just 3:21 into the game, but the Bucs answered in the second quarter. On fourth and four from the Titans' nine, offside penalty against defensive tackle Josh Evans gave the Bucs a first down and Dunn ran it in on the next play.
McNair capped an 80-yard march by going in from the 1 and Nedney kicked a 44-yarder on the last play of the first half for a 17-7 lead.
"The game plan was to try and keep them off balance," McNair said. "They had a good defense with (defensive linemen Warren) Sapp and Simeon Rice and we wanted to keep them off balance by rolling me out on the edge."
In the third quarter, on offside call against Michael Booker on a punt gave the Bucs a first down and Brad Johnson, who was 24 of 49, made the Titans pay, finishing a 97-yard drive with a 26-yard throw to Dunn.
"We started doing the things in the second half that show our progress," Dunn said. "It was good to come back and get into the game and make some plays. We definitely came together on that last drive."
Nedney kicked a 45-yarder just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, making it 20-14.
Dunn caught seven passes for 65 yards and Green had six catches for 72 yards.