The Music City Miracle

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Posted: June 4, 2017


The Music City Miracle refers to a dramatic albeit controversial 75-yard touchdown during the Wild Card Playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans, played at the then Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville on January 8, 2000. The touchdown, which was scored by Kevin Dyson, helped the Titans overturn a 16-15 Bills lead to win the game 22-16, en route to the Super Bowl.

Build-up to the Music City Miracle

The Tennessee Titans were making their first playoff appearance since 1993. During the 1999/2000 season, they finished second in the AFC Central Division with a 13-3 record. The Bills were also second in their division, the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The two teams’ records were not good enough for a straightforward playoffs berth so they were pitted against each other in the wild Card game.

Bills Coach Wade Phillips orchestrated a pregame surprise by leaving out star quarterback Doug Flutie in favor of Rob Johnson. The game started with a quiet first quarter but the Titans opened up a 12-0 lead in the second quarter thanks to a touchdown from Steve McNair and two field goals from Al Del Greco and Derrick Mason. In the second half, the Bills came roaring back with two touchdowns by running back Antowain Smith handing the Bills a 13-12 lead. The score did not change until the fourth quarter when a field goal by Al Del Greco turned the lead over to the Titans. With only 16 seconds left in the game, Buffalo kicker Steve Christie made a 41-yard field goal which seemed to have handed the Bills an unassailable win.

This was not to be the case however.

Build-up to the Music City Miracle

The Tennessee Titans were making their first playoff appearance since 1993. During the 1999/2000 season, they finished second in the AFC Central Division with a 13-3 record. The Bills were also second in their division, the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The two teams’ records were not good enough for a straightforward playoffs berth so they were pitted against each other in the wild Card game. Bills Coach Wade Phillips orchestrated a pregame surprise by leaving out star quarterback Doug Flutie in favor of Rob Johnson.

The game started with a quiet first quarter but the Titans opened up a 12-0 lead in the second quarter thanks to a touchdown from Steve McNair and two field goals from Al Del Greco and Derrick Mason. In the second half, the Bills came roaring back with two touchdowns by running back Antowain Smith handing the Bills a 13-12 lead. The score did not change until the fourth quarter when a field goal by Al Del Greco turned the lead over to the Titans. With only 16 seconds left in the game, Buffalo kicker Steve Christie made a 41-yard field goal which seemed to have handed the Bills an unassailable win. This was not to be the case however.

The Play

On the resulting drive, Christie handed the ball to Lorenzo Neal near the Titan’s 25-yard line. Lorenzo ran to the right and handed off to Frank Wycheck. Wycheck spun and then threw a lateral pass to receiver Kevin Dyson who broke into a full-paced dash towards the Bills end zone 75 yards away. The ensuing touchdown sent the Titans into frenzied celebration even as the match officials converged to determine if Wychecks throw to Dyson was legal or not.

After deliberation, the officials ruled that it had not been a forward pass as it appeared to some people, and awarded the touchdown. The Titan’s won the game 22-16.

Aftermath of the Music City Miracle

The Titans advanced to AFC divisional playoff round for the first time since 1993,. They defeated tha Indianapolis Colts and then the Jackson Jaguars to earn a matchup with the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. In that game, the Titans would be subjected to a last minute humiliation akin to what they had handed the Bills. Many in the Bills camp continued to insist that the judges had made the wrong call on Wycheck’s pass and that the touchdown should not have stood.

Nevertheless heads had to roll for the debacle and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven was fired though his replacement, Ronnie Harris, would not perform any better. DeHaven was rehired to the same position in 2010, and lasted three years. The Bills have changed coaches several times since then but a playoff appearance has continued to elude them to date. It is the longest continuing streak without a playoff in the four major sports leagues in North America. A computer review by NFL Films determined that the ball did not travel forward, therefore the referee’s call was the right one.

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