Little-used backup Billy Volek walked into the huddle, with the Tennessee Titans trailing, and immediately felt comfortable with his teammates.
"You can see in their eyes that they have confidence in me," Volek said.
For good reason.
Volek took over for Steve McNair and threw the second touchdown pass of his career, helping to rally the Titans from a 21-point deficit in a 38-31 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
McNair, the leading passer in the NFL, left in the second quarter when he hurt his right calf.
After McNair threw a five-yard pass to Frank Wycheck, defensive end Patrick Kerney simply touched the quarterback, who took a tentative step and reached for his calf.
At the time, the team listed his return as questionable, but he didn't come back. Afterward, Titan Coach Jeff Fisher said McNair was doubtful for next week's game against the New York Jets. "If I get the nod next week, I'm going to go out and do what I can do," Volek said. "We'll see what happens."
He finished nine of 15 for 117 yards. Before this season, he hadn't thrown a pass since 2001.
Atlanta (2-9) again played without quarterback Michael Vick, out since breaking his leg in the preseason. He sprained his ankle in practice last week, further delaying his return.
"We walked out there and we gave them everything we had," Falcon Coach Dan Reeves said. "We don't apologize to anybody."
Justin McCareins scored twice for the Titans (9-2), including a 58-yard punt return late in the third quarter that gave them the lead for good. In the fourth quarter, he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Volek to make it 38-24.
The Falcons cut the lead to seven on Doug Johnson's 41-yard pass play to Peerless Price, then got the ball back in the final two minutes. But a fourth-down pass from Johnson to Brian Kozlowski fell short, and Tennessee ran out the clock.
The Falcons took a 21-0 lead with three first-quarter touchdowns -- Allen Rossum's 59-yard punt return, T.J. Duckett's two-yard run and a screen pass that Warrick Dunn turned into an 86-yard scoring play.
But, before he left, McNair threw two touchdown passes to Wycheck, then Volek brought Tennessee back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter.