SAN FRANCISCO – One play, one final chance for the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Down 23-16 and with the ball on the St. Louis 10-yard line, the Titans had a chance to cap off a memorable comeback with a game-tying touchdown. If successful, they'd get an opportunity to win it in overtime.
Instead, in the most agonizing play in franchise history, the Titans came up one yard short.
Quarterback Steve McNair completed a slant route to receiver Kevin Dyson, but he was tackled short of the goal line by Rams linebacker Mike Jones.
The freeze frame of Dyson stretching the football remains etched in the minds of Titans fans.
It's a painful memory.
Titans Online caught up with three key Titans – tight end Frank Wycheck, running back Eddie George, and Dyson -- to talk about the final play, from just before the ball was snapped, as the play was developing, and the immediate aftermath on the field at the Georgia Dome.
JUST BEFORE THE SNAP
Wycheck: "I remember it pretty perfectly. I knew what the call was, and I knew in the last game of the season against Pittsburgh we ran the same exact play and I caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone. So I had a real good idea I was the first option because I had a feeling Steve thought the same thing, we'd scored on that play. I broke the huddle and looked at the coverage. I remember thinking for a second about what was on the line, and that feeling that you're about to embark on something that if this ball gets thrown to you, you can be the hero or the goat. Those thoughts, even if they're bad thoughts, definitely entered my mind."
Dyson:** "It was normal. It wasn't, "I hope the ball comes to me, I am going to score." It was more analyzing the defense and seeing what's in front of me and seeing where the holes in the defense might be. I was thinking about my job, thinking about my assignment, listening for a check and something of that nature."
George: "It was our last timeout, and I just remember it being quiet almost, because the anticipation was there. What was going to happen? I remember looking at the guys, the body language, looking in the eyes of the guys. I remember thinking, "Man, we played a hell of a game. I can see us holding up the Lombardi Trophy. I was thinking, "We're going to score and take this bad boy into overtime. And there's no way the Rams were going to stop us because they were done, physically, emotionally, mentally. We had them right where we wanted them."
THE BALL IS SNAPPED
Wycheck: "I knew I was the first option, and I needed to influence Mike Jones, and then get to the back to the seam to cover up the safety. They were playing 3 over 2 zone, and of course Steve made the right read. I released and Mike Jones ran with me for a little bit, and I was like "OK they are going to double me." I didn't want to be a decoy type and influence Mike Jones more because I knew I was the No.1 read and Steve, if he had the chance he was going to fire it back shoulder and do what he had to do. (Jones) ran with me for a couple of steps and obviously he is playing zone so he is looking for No.2 coming inside and that is when Dyson ran that slant and he made that perfect read and came off of me. He knew he had help over the top. I was kind of locked up and bracketed and the ball was thrown to Dyse and I thought he was going to twist out of that and get in the end zone. As he was stretching out I kind of knew the game was over. I was in total shock."
Steve McNair leads a miraculous comeback that falls just short in Super Bowl XXXIV vs. the St. Louis Rams. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP, Getty)
George:** "We called the play and my job was to clear my area out, and I knew I probably wasn't going to see the football, which was fine, because I just wanted to get into the end zone and take it into overtime. We felt we were a team of destiny. We called the play and it was almost like it was slow motion, I see Kevin clear, and I am looking from left to right and he catches the ball and I am like, "He's about to go in." And then Mike Jones makes that play and gets him, and I remember seeing Kevin stretching out for the doggone goal line and I look back up at the clock and saw it go to zero."
Dyson: "They were in a 3 by 2, and (Mike Jones) was eyeballing me and if I made anything immediate toward his area, I knew he would immediately come off of Frank and take me. The whole concept is I am kind of the bait get (Jones) off me and allow Frank to get behind him. When the ball was in the air to me, it was pretty blank. You've heard athletes say this and it's pretty much true: There is no sound, it is kind of a surreal moment and you are in it. When I saw Mike looking at me, I didn't think he'd have enough momentum or angle to get to me and make a play. I didn't think he'd be in a position to make a solid tackle. But he made a great play and didn't allow me to break free. I have said this from Day One: The yellow paint of the end zone was so vivid. I stretched my arm out and tried to get there."
Wycheck: "I took a knee and I remember watching the confetti come down and everything moved out to the middle of the field for the celebration for the Rams. Just trying to take all that in to use that as motivation to work hard and try and get back. … I felt like we had really beaten them down, and felt like we were going to win. Coach (Jeff) Fisher talked to us and told us we just ran out of time. I felt like we should have won that game. The lasting memory is the Rams have something we should have had."
Dyson:** "I was hoping I was close enough for a replay. You kind of go tone deaf, you don't hear anything. And then the game is unmuted, and you hear the sound and confetti and everything around you. There was a moment of disbelief, where I couldn't believe the game was over. It didn't seem real. I just sat there, and thought I can't believe it ended like that. I couldn't believe I didn't score, that had never happened to me in sports. So it was surreal. I was down for a little bit and then instantly, I thought "Get up." I thought about all my coaches growing up telling me: Don't let your opponents see you hurt. Get up and shake their hands and go to the locker room. So I did that. I said I am going to get up, be gracious, shake their hands and go. And that's the thing I thought about. I didn't want to sit there and sulk, but that was the first time I had never been successful at that point in my life in anything athletic. We're talking about game-winning free throws, baskets, game-winning catches, game-winning soccer goals growing up. That was the first time ever and it was the Super Bowl. I was like "I can't believe that happened." But I thought about my coaches and what they said and I got up."
George: "I look up and confetti is flying everywhere, and we are still on the field. I remember seeing Derrick (Mason) there with his helmet off, Frank with his helmet off. It was almost like a shock, like "This can't be over. It's not over. It can't be over." But it was. We were just shocked. We left everything out there on that field and didn't want to leave. I made a beeline to our sideline and sat on our bench and I watched for a moment, the celebration of the Rams because I wanted to say, "OK, that is going to be me. At some point and time that is going to be me holding up that trophy. As a player I never had that opportunity, but who knows what the future holds for me in that arena? I do believe one day in some form or fashion I will experience winning a Super Bowl, whether it is my son, my grandson, my relatives, as an owner, or something? I don't know. But I firmly believe that my time will come."