SAN FRANCISCO – Wade Phillips said he's over it, but the moment he starts talking about the "Music City Miracle" it's clear he's really not.
"I don't have any doubt it was a forward lateral,'' said Phillips, Buffalo's head coach that memorable day in Nashville. "I was standing right there. I saw it plain as day. And I really do believe if we had a little better technology back then like we have now, they would have called it back. If we had HD (high definition TV) like we do now, that play wouldn't have counted."
|Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was Buffalo's head coach the day of the Music City Miracle.|
Bruce DeHaven, Buffalo's special teams coach who was fired two days after the team's playoff loss to the Titans, doesn't hide the fact the play haunts him to this day.
"Other than a death in the family, it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me,'' DeHaven said of the controversial play. "I haven't gotten over it. I'll never get over that. If you're a special teams coach and you have pride in your work, how could you ever get over something terrible like that? I'll never get over it. Ever."
"Home Run Throwback" – tight end Frank Wycheck's lateral pass that Titans receiver Kevin Dyson caught, and ran 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a playoff game against the Bills, still makes DeHaven want to throw up.
This week, Phillips and DeHaven are competing against one another in the quest to win Super Bowl 50. Phillips is defensive coordinator with the Broncos, while DeHaven is special teams coordinator with the Panthers.
On January 8, 2000, they were on the Buffalo sideline when the Titans pulled off one of the most memorable plays of all time. It came on a kickoff, just moments after Buffalo had taken the lead. Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal fielded the ensuing kick, gave the ball to Wycheck, and he threw a lateral pass to Dyson, who followed a convoy of blockers into the end zone.
|Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven was fired as Buffalo's special teams coach two days after the team's playoff loss to the Titans.|
All these years later, DeHaven is still disgusted by the way his team executed on kick coverage, and because the call wasn't overturned.
"I told the guys exactly what was going to happen, that (the Titans) were going to start lateraling the ball and we need to make sure to keep everyone in front of us. And the first thing that happened is my contain man jumped inside instead of keeping containment. It was probably my fault, I should have coached him up a little better or had someone else there,'' DeHaven said. "I told them how we were supposed to play it, but I didn't get the message to them.
"Now it was a forward lateral. I never said that at the time because it happened on my watch and I was responsible. But it doesn't change that it was forward."
DeHaven said the play remains the most crushing moment of his career -- even more painful than Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood's missed field goal against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
To this day, he won't watch a replay of the Music City Miracle.
"In Super Bowl 25, we protected, got the kick off, and Scotty just missed it. I was a part of that loss,'' DeHaven said. "The one in Tennessee, that was all on me as far as I am concerned.
"And I won't watch it again. It comes on TV and I flip the channel. I am not watching that again. Why would I want to see that again? That is one of the worst moments of my life, other than actually losing a family member or friend to death. I don't need to see that again. I lived it once, I don't want to live it again. Why would I want to put myself through that again?"
DeHaven, who is battling cancer, said it was "traumatic" when he returned to Nissan Stadium years later as an assistant with the Cowboys. He also said this week it took him a while to get over being fired by Phillips. Many in Buffalo felt DeHaven was made out to be a scapegoat after the special teams breakdown.
He holds no grudge against Alan Lowry, special teams coach of the Titans.
"He's one of my best friends,'' DeHaven said of Lowry. "He called to congratulate me the other day. I love Alan to death."
Phillips, who ended up getting fired by the Bills a season later, said his only regret is Buffalo didn't win that day.
Titans Online looks back at one of the greatest plays in NFL history - the "Music City Miracle" - in Tennessee's 22-16 AFC Wild Card victory over the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 8, 2000 at LP Field.
And while Phillips doesn't change the channel when the Music City Miracle comes on television, it's safe to say he sees the play differently than those in Tennessee.
"If I see it, I can see where (Wycheck's) feet are, and that's what got me,'' Phillips said. "The guy threw it from behind the line and the other guy (Dyson) caught it in front of the line, so to me that is pretty definite. It was forward.
"But it doesn't matter now, really, and it doesn't bother me any more either. I wish we would have won that game for that team, because the Titans were a great team that year, they almost won the Super Bowl, and we had a chance to beat them. But it's over with now.
"I look to the future, I really don't live in the past. I remember it certainly, and I still say if we had high definition now there wouldn't have been any question that they would have brought it back, but that's the way it goes. It's over now. I look to the future, I really don't live in the past."