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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Music City Miracle

04 Oct

The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans clash on the NFL schedule for the upcoming week five, and our Throwback Thursday feature travels back to a wild card playoff game between these 2 clubs contested on January 8, 2000. It was a hard -fought game that was decided in the final seconds by a controversial play that was a throwback in itself – the name of the play was  “The Home Run Throwback”. Although the 2 teams only qualified as wild cards, they were both imposing clubs. The Titans had finished at 13-3 while the Bills, with an 11-5 record, boasted the #1 defense in the NFL in yards allowed. It was a defensive struggle from the start, and after a scoreless first quarter, the Titans took command as they sacked Buffalo quarterback Rob Johnson for a safety, then got a 42 yard return of the “free kick” following the safety by Derrick Mason to give themselves great field position. Tennessee QB Steve “Air” McNair finished off the short drive with a one yard touchdown run, and an Al Del Greco field goal later in the quarter sent the Titans into halftime with a 12-0 lead.

The Bills had gained only 64 yards in the opening half, and a controversial decision to change signal callers for this game was beginning to look bad. Doug Flutie had been the Bills’ QB all season, leading a low-scoring but efficient attack as the club rode the strength of their defense to most of their victories. In a meaningless regular season finale, Johnson was given a start against the Indianapolis Colts and was so impressive that the Bills’ brass decided to go with him in the playoff game instead of Flutie. Under enormous pressure to produce, Johnson came out in the second half and began to mount a comeback. The Bills took the opening kickoff of the half and used their running game, specifically star back Antowian Smith, to put together a 64 yard scoring drive. a 44 yard run by Smith highlighted the drive, and a 4 yard run for a touchdown by him finished it. Johnson led another touchdown drive, this time for 65 yards and highlighted by a 37 yard completion from him to Eric Moulds. The drive was capped off with another 4 yard TD run by Smith, and after failing on a two-point conversion try, the Bills found themselves with the lead at 13-12. McNair, who had only 76 yards passing for the day, pieced together a drive that netted the Titans another Del Greco field goal, putting Tennessee up 15-13 with a little under 2 minutes to play.  Johnson again led the Bills downfield, orchestrating a drive that led to a go-ahead field goal from Steve Christie that appeared to ice the game for the Bills, as only 16 seconds remained.

Then came the infamous play that would make this game one of the most memorable in NFL playoff history. Lorenzo Neal fielded Christie’s “pooch” kickoff, and handed it to Pro Bowler Frank Wycheck. Wycheck stopped, turned to his left and lofted a “lateral” across the field to speedster Kevin Dyson, who raced past the few Buffalo defenders who were on that side of the field to an improbable touchdown return to give his team a 22-16 victory. The play was extremely controversial in that it appeared that Wycheck had thrown an illegal forward pass. In fact, Bills’ coach Wade Phillips appeared to be very calm after the play, confident that it would be overturned on replay review. Replays showed Wycheck was clearly behind the yard line when he launched the pass, with Dyson clearly ahead of it when he caught the ball. However, referee Phil Luckett, after review, ruled that Wycheck’s arm was parallel to where Dyson was, so it was a legal lateral. Luckett’s role in the play was highlighted in the fact that he had been involved in a couple of controversies earlier in the season, botching the coin toss in one game and ruling a Vinny Testaverde QB sneak a touchdown even though replays clearly showed him being stopped a half yard short. Controversy aside, the touchdown stood and the “Music City Miracle” was born, although Bills’ coach Phillips always referred to it as “The Music City Mistake”.

 

2000-Titans-Online

Kevin Dyson follows a convoy of blockers to “Music City Miracle” winning TD

 

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