NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** It's been 16 years ago today since the Music City Miracle, and long-time Titans fans have the play memorized. They've seen it on their televisions, their computers, and replayed it countless times in their heads.
Keep the TV on today, and chances are you'll see it on the anniversary date of the play.
But there's one detail they might not realize — or perhaps they've just forgotten in time.
With a smile, Derrick Mason remembers.
In the final moments of the 1999 season's Wild Card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, then-Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal fielded a kickoff, and handed the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck. With the ball in his hands, Wycheck took a few steps to his right before turning around and slinging the ball across the field to receiver Kevin Dyson, who did the rest.
In one of the most improbable endings ever, Dyson raced 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 22-16 win.
The play set the stage for a run to the Super Bowl, and might always be remembered as the best play in franchise history.
If not for an injury, Mason would've been on the field, and in a position to do what Dyson did. He'd practiced the play for years, only he wasn't available that afternoon after suffering a concussion in the first half of the game.
Mason is hardly bitter about missing out on his role in such a historic play, however. He doesn't replay it in his mind with himself streaking down the sideline. He spoke to Titans Online about it leading up to the Titans-Bills game this season.
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.
"Maybe when it happened, and a couple of days afterward, or after the season I probably thought in my mind, 'Man, that should've been me,' Mason said. "But I don't think about it now, because it was meant for Kevin. I tell people, if I had I run it, maybe I would've dropped the ball, or maybe I would've been tackled, I don't know.
"I wouldn't change anything. Kevin deserved it, he did exactly what (special teams) coach (Alan) Lowry wanted him to do. It's his play, and it always will be. Kevin has a play that will go down forever as the greatest play in Titans history. I know it means a lot to him, and it means a lot to me that he has that."
Dyson was actually the third option on the play – he was abruptly called into action when Mason was unavailable, and his back-up on the play, Anthony Dorsett, was suffering from cramps.
Had the Bills kicked the ball deep, receiver Isaac Byrd would have been the one who triggered the play. But the squib kick put Neal in the middle of the action.
Mason, who was in his third NFL season at the time, wondered if the play would've fooled the Bills like it did if he'd been on the field – and not watching from the sideline – for that kickoff, which came after the Bills took a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds left.
It all worked out, and looking back, Mason couldn't be happier.
"Had it worked out like we practiced it, maybe it wouldn't have worked because they would've been looking for it, especially if I was out there,'' Mason said. "Because at that time I had really started to catch my groove as a punt returner and kick returner, and the Bills might've been looking for it. But I don't think they anticipated it with Dyson out there. They weren't expecting it."
As things turned out, Mason didn't need the play to leave his mark on the NFL.
Mason's career took off the following year, when he was named a Pro Bowler for the first time. Mason ended up playing 15 NFL seasons, and he tallied 943 receptions for 12,061 receiving yards and 66 career touchdowns with the Titans, Ravens, Jets and Texans. He had eight 1,000-yard seasons. It was a heck of a career, no doubt.
Dyson, a first round pick in 1998, saw his career take a bad turn the following year, when he suffered a devastating knee injury in practice. Dyson played six NFL seasons, and finished with 178 catches for 2,325 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Despite his own accomplishments, Dyson's remembered most for racing to the end zone to cap off the Music City Miracle, and for being the guy who was tackled one yard short of the end zone in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Mason said he's happy Dyson will always have the Music City Miracle attached to his name. To this day, Mason still remembers heading toward the sideline to get a better view of Dyson running toward the end zone, a convoy of blockers in front of him. Mason ended up running across the field to celebrate with Dyson and his teammates.
"Even though I was a year or two older than Kevin, I emulated a lot of things he did on the field and tried to implement them into my game to make myself better. I took a lot away from Kevin. People remember him from that play, but I was able to take a lot away from being around him,'' Mason said. "Kevin's a great guy and I was fortunate to be around him.
"Things happen for a reason. Kevin deserves that play, Lo and Frank deserve it. And without those guys, we wouldn't have had an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. It's the greatest play in Titans history and nothing is going to change that."