As the Titans gear up to begin their Super Bowl run, many fans are reminded of the Titans last trip to the Super Bowl, and the play that got them there.
Dubbed "The Music City Miracle", the last-ditch kickoff play was an orchestrated effort that resulted in a kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Titans a 22-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The play actually had a name: Home Run Throwback. Allan Lowry, the Special Teams coach at the time, designed the play to get the ball immediately into field goal range in the event that the Titans trailed a the end of the fourth quarter by a field goal or less.
But Kevin Dyson had other plans.
The Titans were to receive the kickoff with 16 seconds remaining in regulation. As Mike Keith stated in the radio broadcast of the game, if the Titans had a miracle in them, "...they need it now".
He obviously had no idea what the Titans had in store.
Dyson did not normally practice with the special teams unit—the play was usually run in practice with Derrick Mason. But Mason was on the sideline nursing an injury, and Dyson was put in the position of executing a play he was unfamiliar with.
The play didn't even start out as originally planned. Tight End Frank Wycheck was supposed to receive the kickoff—as a college quarterback, he had the skill set necessary to throw a catchable pass. On the kickoff, though, he was not in position to catch the ball. Running back Lorenzo Neal received the kick and had to hand off to Wycheck as he ran laterally across the field to the right.
The Bills bit hard on the play, thinking it was a reverse. 10 of the 11 players on the kicking team flowed in Wycheck's direction, leaving only Steve Christie, the kicker, on the left side of the field.
When Wycheck planted and threw the ball back across the field, Dyson had one man to beat. When interviewed later about the play, Dyson implied that he didn't have any choice but to score a touchdown. If he couldn't outrun a kicker, he stated, then he had no business being a starting wide receiver in the NFL.
And outrun him he did. After scooping up the low pass from Wycheck at the 25-yard line, Dyson took off down the sidelines with a wall of blockers in front of him, quickly putting Christie behind him and outrunning the rest of the pursuing Bills team en route to a touchdown.
Mike Keith's call at the end of the run was ecstatic.
"10, 5, end zone...TOUCHDOWN, TITANS! There are no...flags...on the field! It's a miracle! Tennessee has pulled a miracle! A miracle for the Titans!"
Of course, it wasn't over; the play was immediately reviewed by the booth to determine whether the pass, which was extremely close, did not actually advance the ball forward while in flight. If it had, the Titans were done. With only three seconds left in the game, there was no possible way, short of ANOTHER miracle, that they would be able to move into scoring position before time expired.
Referee Phil Luckett made the call:
Keith: "Here comes Luckett with the call of the new millennium."
Luckett: "After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands. It was a lateral, touchdown, Tennessee."
No one listening to the radio actually heard Luckett say "touchdown"—the instant he stated that the call was being upheld, Mike Keith and Pat Ryan immediately exploded.
Keith: "We did it!"
Ryan: "YES! Titans win!"
Keith:" Three seconds to go, and Tennessee is on the verge of a miracle finish!"
Tennessee did, of course, go on to win not only that game, but also gained a close 19-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, and decisively beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 33-14 in the AFC Championship game.
Maybe it was fate, but the Titans lost to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV when Kurt Warner hit a streaking Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard strike at the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Tennessee gamely came back to threaten, but Kevin Dyson, the man who had put Tennessee on the road to glory three weeks earlier, was tackled one yard short of the end zone on the last play of the game.
Funnily enough, that particular play came to be known as "The Tackle".
The Bills reaction to the play was swift. Special Teams coach Bruce Dehaven was fired, with the decision probably being made before he even left the field. One year later, head coach Wade Phillips was let go, replaced in an ironic twist by Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Bills haven't been the same since. Their loss to the Titans marked the last time Buffalo has played in the post season since that game.
With the Titans facing the hard-nosed Ravens this week, will they need another miracle to advance? Will divine intervention be required to get them to the Super Bowl and a possible rematch with Kurt Warner, the man who killed the dream nine years ago?
Anything is possible. And Fate is a fickle broad.