One Yard Short

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Super Bowl XXXIV between the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams remains one of the most dramatic championships in recent NFL history. The game, played on January 30, 2000 is remembered for its dramatic conclusion, which saw the Rams smother a fight, back by the Titans, to seal their first and only Super Bowl win in franchise history.

With six second left in the game, and the Titans having fought back from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game and then fall back to 23-16, wide receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled by Rams linebacker Mike Jones, just one yard away from the Rams’ end zone, a tackle that enabled the Rams to hold on to their lead and win the Super Bowl.

The play was nicknamed “One Yard Short” or “The Tackle.” It has gone down in history as one of the most impressive plays in the history of the sport.
Buildup to One Yard Short

Coming into the 1999/2000 season, the Rams were one of the weakest teams in the league, but the hiring of Dick Vermeil as head coach in 1997 had created cause for optimism. They proceeded to finish with a 13-3 record, the best in the NFC and also had some high scoring statistics. Much of the success could be attributed to the prolific form of backup quarterback Kurt Warner who came into the team to replace the injured Trent Green. The underrated quarterback produced one of the most impressive performances by a quarterback to earn the NFL MVP award.

In the playoffs, the Rams beat the Minnesota Vikings 49-37 and then defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-6 in the NFC Championship Game. The Titans had finished with a record identical to the Rams, but in the more competitive AFC, were ranked second behind the Jackson Jaguars who had a 14-2 record.

In the wild card game, the Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills 22-16 in a famous tie known as the “Music City Miracle.” They then beat the Indianapolis Colts 19-16 in the divisional playoffs before eliminating the Jackson Jaguars 33-14 in the AFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl was slated for Atlanta’ Georgia Dome.

The One Yard Short Game

The opening exchanges of the game were rather unfruitful, with the defenses of both teams playing impressively. The Rams dominated the first half outgaining the Titans with 294 yards against 89 but only had a 9-0 lead to show for it.

In the third quarter, tight end Torry Holt extended the Rams’ lead to 16-0 from a six-yard Ernie Cornwell touchdown pass. An Eddie George touchdown for the Titans, but missed the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 16-6 at the end of the thrird quarter. The Titans, inspired by their first points of the game, pushed the Rams hard in the fourth quarter and a second touchdown by George brought the scores to 16-13. With 2:12 on the clock, Del Greco hit a 43-yard field goal to tie the scores at 16-16.

The 16-point deficit that the Titans had clawed back was the largest in Super Bowl history and this was the first time a team had erased a double-figure lead in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. With 1:54 left in the game, a 73-yard pass by quarterback Kurt Warner was caught by Isaac Bruce who restored the Rams’ lead. Using the same play that they had used in the Music City Miracle, the Titans looked good to make up the deficit once again. Led by quarterback Steve McNair, the Titans worked their way to within 10 yards of the Rams’ end zone with five seconds left. McNair sent a pass to Kevin Dyson who needed to rush four yards to tie the game. Just as he hit his stride, Jones who had been guarding Frank Wycheck sensed the danger and turned his attention to Dyson.

He barely managed to get his right hand on Dyson’s right hip and pulled him one yard short of the end zone. With the clock ticking down, Dyson desperately tried to stretch the ball over the goal line but to no avail. The referees ended the game to give the Rams the Super Bowl, their one and only to date. Although the play drew its fare share of attention, Warner drew most of the plaudits after the game for his immense rise from obscurity to stardom over a few seasons. St. Louis, who today play as the Los Angeles Rams have yet to make another Super Bowl appearance.