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Closer Look

Titans do everything right, but Rams still burn them

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Posted: Monday January 31, 2000 08:32 AM

  Dagger in the heart: Isaac Bruce cuts in front of Anthony Dorsett to score the game-winning touchdown. AP

By John Donovan, CNNSI.com

ATLANTA -- If you listen to Jevon Kearse, the St. Louis Rams simply were lucky on one critical, game-turning play Sunday night. It was the defining play of the game, a play in which the Tennessee Titans did almost everything right.

It just turned out so wrong for them. And that's why the Rams ended up Sunday as the winners in Super Bowl XXXIV.

"It was a lucky throw and a lucky catch," Kearse, the Titans' pro Bowl rookie defensive lineman said, not accusingly, but plainly matter-of-fact. "I almost had a big play, and Denard Walker ... it was great coverage."

The Titans were beaten Sunday on a 73-yard pass from game MVP Kurt Warner to speedy wideout Isaac Bruce, a play offensive coordinator Mike Martz calls "Twins Right, Ace Right, 999 Halfback Balloon." It wasn't much more than a quick fly pattern down the right sideline that Bruce caught on the Tennessee 40. He then cut inside a would-be tackler and zipped into the end zone with 1:54 remaining in the game.

It was the final TD in a 23-16 corker that will be remembered as one of the most exciting Super Bowl games in history.

The play was not nearly that simple. It could have easily turned the other way. And, in the Titans' minds, it maybe should have.

Rams on Bruce's catch

Marshall Faulk: "We were confident in the huddle. We knew we could move the ball on them. We knew what we could do. We looked up at the clock and saw 2:11 left, and we just said, 'Someone has to make a play.'"

Isaac Bruce: "I saw the safety overrun me. I kinda ducked ... and then it was just a race to the end zone. It feels good."

 

Walker was no more than a foot away from Bruce when he made the catch. The ball was underthrown because Kearse, coming hard off the right side of the Rams' offensive line, was bearing down hard on Warner, who had to let the ball go a smidgen early. Warner was smacked immediately after he released the ball.

The ball floated, something Bruce saw right away but Walker was just a millisecond slow on picking up. Titans safety Anthony Dorsett was taking an angle on Bruce to where he thought he would catch the ball. So when he caught it a little shallower than Dorsett planned, all Bruce had to do was cut inside and Dorsett overran him.

Some Titans also said Bruce pushed off on Walker to get open.

"Kurt threw it up and I knew I had to make an adjustment on the ball, and God did the rest," Bruce said. "I knew I was going to be one-on-one and that I was going to make the catch."

The touchdown was one of only two the high-powered Rams' offense scored all night. It turned out to be especially painful for the Titans, considering they felt like they did everything -- or almost everything, anyway -- correctly.

"We did so many things right," Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. "I think I now know what Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin [the head coach and defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost to the Rams last week on one big play] must feel like.

"We played a whale of a ballgame, and for it to come down to one play. But it's something I keep telling these guys. You have to play every play. That's what this league is all about."


 
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Multimedia
Titans coach Jeff Fisher says his team did everything they could in the second half. (142 K)
Isaac Bruce describes his game-winning catch. (53 K)
Titans WR Kevin Dyson says the loss is hard to swallow. (81 K)
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