The Music City Miracle – By Adam Foxcroft (@ADFoxcroft)
“There are no flags on the field. It’s a miracle. Tennessee has pulled a miracle!!”
I’ve been a fan of the Tennessee Titans since before they were even a Tennessee based football team, and my fandom goes back to the days of the Houston Oilers and Warren Moon.
However, what was one of the most exciting teams in the NFL became a source of farce and controversy as Bud Adams decided to move the team to Nashville (via Memphis for a couple of strange years while the stadium was being built). But in 1999, the Houston and then Tennessee Oilers became the Titans (and in the new Adephia Coliseum), Jeff Fisher’s team really started to make strides;
Steve McNair, Eddie George and others on Offense were more than capable of taking advantage of the short fields that the Defense were giving them to work with, and the team soared into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. The reward was a tough looking home game against Buffalo, which would go down to the wire.
The game, in truth, was dominated by defence. With the Bills kicking a Field Goal to seemingly win it 16-15 with 16 seconds left, it looked over. Now, Steve McNair may have had a Hail Mary in him. Or perhaps we were going to see one of those rugby style desperation plays like the one executed by Miami in 2018. But the Titans’ special teams had other ideas: with Defense on top, the best chance of rescuing the game was some trickery with the kick-off.
Poor old Jeff Fisher should be remembered more for moments like this – stealing a game with a clever play when the opposition least expected it – arguably on a par with Sean Payton running an onside kick in the Super Bowl. The move had been worked on in training; the only trouble was that different players had practised it – Derrick Mason, for example, had gone down injured earlier in the game. But at this moment, Tennessee had to make do, as this was the best, maybe only, opportunity to pinch the game.
The play itself? Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick, handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck, who lateralled the ball across to Kevin Dyson, who ran up the left-hand side of the field to score the winning Touchdown. But was the lateral across the field a forward pass? Not according to the officials, and while the play got reviewed, there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field call.
The play has been debated ever since, and to some, the pass looked forward as Frank Wycheck was standing behind the 25 yard line, even though he threw from in front of it. Detailed computer analysis may have “proved” that Sir Geoff Hurst’s shot didn’t actually cross the line in 1966, but nothing has ever convinced this Titans fan that this particular result should not have stood. Moreover, there are images that seem to indicate it was not forward – showing the ball as closer to the 25 yard line when Dyson gathered it than when Wycheck released it.
To the Bills fans who remain unconvinced just know this: at least you didn’t end up suffering a Super Bowl heartbreak on the final play of THAT season.
Not that time, anyway.