Rookie's interception set up Rams' game-winning TD
Posted: Monday January 24, 2000 08:26 AM
Six plays after Dre' Bly's interception, the Rams grabbed an 11-6 lead with 4:44 to play. AP
By Rich Loup, CNNSI.com
ST. LOUIS - In a contest of malfunctioning offenses, it was fitting that botched execution caused the turning point of the NFC Championship Game.
The Rams' Dre' Bly happened to be in the right place at the wrong time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who saw their 6-5 lead early in the fourth quarter turn into an 11-6 deficit six plays later.
On third-and-11 at the 50, Bucs quarterback Shaun King rolled out of the pocket and threw a pass in the flat intended for running back Warrick Dunn, who was the "checkdown" on that play. However, King and Dunn miscommunicated and Bly intercepted the errant throw to set up the Rams' only touchdown of the game.
"We were in cover 2 and my job is to jam the receiver and look for anything coming across," said Bly, a rookie out of North Carolina. "I saw Warrick come out of the backfield and then once I saw him, I penetrated toward him and Shaun King threw it right to me."
King patiently sat through postgame interviews, giving brief answers to the questions that go along with playing the biggest position in one of football's largest stages. He threw his hands up in the air following the interception and put the blame on himself following the game.
"My timing was just off a little bit," King said in a low tone of voice. "When your timing is off and you're playing a good defense, they capitalize on it."
Bucs coach Tony Dungy said that King's costly interception was a case of the rookie trying to do a little too much.
"He kind of got of the pocket, scrambled away from the rush and in that situation, he probably shouldn't make the throw," Dungy said. "But he was trying to win the game, trying to make something happen. It's one of those things that I'm sure he wishes he had the throw back."
Dungy knew that such a mistake is part of the package of starting a rookie quarterback one game away from the Super Bowl.
"It's learning and getting in the NFC Championship Game and trying to make some things happen," Dungy said. "Shaun's played great. We wouldn't be where we were without him. So it's just one of those things where you'd like the defense to go in there and hold them at that point."
That's certainly what the Rams did when it counted most. Their offense struggled throughout and only an interception by one rookie off another kept St. Louis in position to make its only big offensive play of the game. Kurt Warner's 30-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl gave the Rams the lead for good, but Bly's interception made it possible.
"I was hoping so," Bly said when asked if he thought his interception was the play that saved the Rams. "I was praying that we could get a first and down and make a big play and we did."
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