HOUSTON – Kurt Warner won the Most Valuable Player award in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Steve McNair won the hearts of Titans fans that night.
McNair's performance in Tennessee's 23-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams is one that will never be forgotten. More than seven years after McNair's death -- and 17 years since that game in Atlanta -- Warner said the Titans quarterback showed the world what he was about that night in the Georgia Dome.
"Steve was an unbelievable person, but he was an incredible competitor and really was ahead of the game with how he played, using his arm and his feet,'' Warner said from Super Bowl LI. "He was a great in-pocket passer, with the unique ability to make plays with his feet and arm outside that pocket, kind of like Aaron Rodgers, in that mold but a decade earlier.
"I got to see it up close and personal how talented he was in that game. I don't think we've seen a lot of guys that have played our game that have been as talented both in the pocket and outside the pocket as a guy like Steve McNair. And what he did in that game, and on that final drive, it's what Steve McNair was all about."
Warner threw for 414 yards and won MVP honors while quarterbacking the Rams. But it almost wasn't enough, because McNair guided the team back from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game at 16-all. After Warner connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown pass, the Titans got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining.
McNair guided the Titans down the field by running, throwing and escaping sacks. He connected with receiver Kevin Dyson on the final play of the game, but Dyson was tackled at the one-yard line.
Warner, now an analyst for NFL Network, said he talked to McNair after the game and on other occasions about the guts he showed that night.
"There's nothing as a fan of the game, and as a competitor, that you appreciate more than being on the biggest stage and watching some of the greatest players in the history of our game at their best,'' Warner said.
"Just to be able to share that, and acknowledge Steve McNair's greatness and what he did in that game and what he did on that last drive, and how it just spoke to how he was as a player, and how he was as a leader for that team and for our league. … I got a chance to share that with him couple of times and I have so much respect for who he was and how he carried himself.
"It was maybe defined by that one drive, but it went so much farther than that."
Former Ravens and Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe, who competed against McNair and the Titans in some big games during in his career, said McNair was "as tough as they come."
"He knew in order for his teams to be successful he had to be on the field, and he showed it so many times," Sharpe said. "He was a man. He was a tough guy. I only got a chance to play with him those four times I was in Baltimore, but it was always a battle with him. The guy was an unbelievable competitor. And his performance in that Super Bowl? Oh man, I remember it."
Former Titans lineman Bruce Matthews, a Hall of Famer, said he thinks of McNair often.
He gets even more reminders leading up to the Super Bowl each year.
"NFL Films, they are either airing the one-yard short in the Super Bowl or the Music City Miracle, and you think it is amazing how quickly time passes,'' Matthews said. "And you look at Steve, and the fact that he is no longer with us, it is almost hard to believe. It was such a neat time for all of us, and it is neat to reflect on it and think about the special times in our youth, and what a special time that was for all of us.
"And you can't help but think about the fact that Steve is no longer with us, too."
A first-round pick (3rd overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 NFL Draft, Steve McNair led the Titans to the playoffs four times, including an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV, while passing for 27,141 yards and 156 TDs in 11 seasons with the franchise. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP, Mike Mu)