On Jan. 8, 2000, three current Scene staff members watched from different perches the unfolding of the "Music City Miracle" when the Titans stunned Buffalo on a trick play with just 16 seconds left in the team's first-ever NFL playoff game in Nashville.
Missed it by that much.
Having watched the Tennessee Titans throughout the 1999 season, beginning with the first day of training camp, one thing was blatantly obvious to me: They were going to win.
That was my first thought the moment Steve Christie's 41-yard field goal went through the uprights and gave Buffalo a 16-15 lead with with 16 seconds to play in the AFC wild card game.
Keenly aware that something monumental was about to happen, I jumped from my seat in the press box and headed for the field. I wanted to be behind the end zone when the Titans completed a Hail Mary pass so I could document the moment from just a few feet away.
It's not far from the press box at LP Field (then Adelphia Coliseum) to the field level, yet at about the exact moment I hit the bottom of the stairs I heard a huge roar from the crowd.
I raced into the hallway, quickly stepped into the first room I saw and looked up at a television. At that moment, the picture was a tight shot of Kevin Dyson, helmet on, celebrating.
"Kevin Dyson's not on the kickoff return team," I thought. "Why are they showing him?"
It took some time, but eventually I pieced together what happened. The last-minute substitution of Dyson for an injured Derrick Mason. The squib kick. The lateral. The return. The miracle.
What's important to remember is that I was right. The Titans won the game and did so in utterly unforgettable fashion.
Thank goodness for video replay because I, like everyone else, have seen the play countless times ...well, countless minus one.
Grown men do cry
There were tears of rage and tears of joy when the Coliseum crowd erupted from the uneasy silence following the touchdown that would give the Titans a shocking and surprising win.
From the front of the upper deck, my wife and I had just watched an improbable kickoff return lead to a touchdown that erased a last-minute field goal by the Bills. Even though we could see no penalty flags on the field, fans muttered quietly about whether the play would be disallowed — it sure looked like an illegal forward pass from where we were.
Three Bills fans were waving off the touchdown with their arms to those around them, but none of us were sure.
I can't forget just how loud the stadium was on Buffalo's last drive, and how quiet it got when the field goal split the uprights; then erupted again when Dyson ran into the endzone, only to grow silent once more when referees huddled and the game was put into the hands of replay officials.
Talk about your roller coasters.
There would be one last — and lasting — roar. High-fives and group hugs exploded everywhere, then some folks slumped in their seats and wept. I saw men in full Titan regalia bawl like babies. A few rows down, two of the three Bills' fans were trying to console the third who had gone berserk in frustration. I felt for both guys.
My wife remembers clearly what she asked before the kick ("Can they really win this now?") and my reply: "It'll take a miracle." And a few seconds later, we witnessed one.
The wrong call
Back during the 1999 season, I was working for the long since defunct Titans Exclusive – a team magazine that sprang up when the team moved to Nashville, but had the shrewd business model of catering to diehard and out-of-town fans with week-old features and news.
That concept might have worked had we started 10 years earlier, but who knew that this Internet thing would catch on like it did. The magazine was short-lived, but it did provide me access in a way to one of the most ingenious and amazing plays in NFL history.
As fate would have it, I am standing in the back of in the north end zone waiting for the final 16 seconds to tick off the clock so I can go in and conduct interviews about the playoff loss.
I see Lorenzo Neal field the kick and pitch it back to Frank Wycheck, and shrewdly I turn to a colleague and say, "Why are they doing this lateraling crap? That never works." Turning back to the action, the ball has been throw across the field to Kevin Dyson, who is running straight toward me with a cavalcade of blockers escorting him.
Dyson scores right in front of me, making a winner of the Titans and a fool of me. I'm told that my reaction, with mouth wide open and in complete shock, is captured on the NFL Films tape of the play.
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