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Anyone have a timeout?

Early timeout comes back to burn Titans

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Posted: Monday January 31, 2000 03:07 AM

  A day late and a dollar short: The Rams Jeff Zgonina (90) signals that Kevin Dyson did not make it into the end zone. Al Bello/Allsport

By John Donovan and
Ryan Hunt,

ATLANTA -- Kevin Dyson was stretching for the end zone Sunday, the last seconds on an improbable season ticking down.

If only the Tennessee Titans would have had one more timeout. If only they hadn't burned one earlier in the fourth quarter.

They might be the Super Bowl champs today.

"I don't want to say it hurt us," Titans quarterback Steve McNair said. "But we could have used it."

The Titans' last-ditch effort to tie the score in the final second of Super Bowl XXXIV fell short partly because they had gone through all their timeouts. They used one with 8:33 left in the game to avoid a delay-of-game penalty, and that could have made the difference in the game.

Instead, Dyson caught a 9-yard pass from McNair with seconds left, was tackled on the St. Louis Rams' 1-yard line and the Rams won the game 23-16.

McNair decided to take the second timeout when the formation that was called in over the speakers in his helmet turned out to be wrong. By the time the formation was corrected, there wasn't enough time to get off the play, and McNair didn't want to take the delay of game.

The timeout helped hugely at the time. The Titans ran the same play after the timeout, with the right formation, and McNair connected with tight end Jackie Harris for a 21-yard gain to the Rams' 3-yard line. That set up Eddie George's second touchdown.

The Titans used their final timeout in the last, just-short drive, setting up the final do-or-go home play to Dyson.

"You don't want to take a delay of game in that situation. We were in a groove," tight end Frank Wycheck said of the earlier play. "You have to play it as the game plays out. That one just worked out that way."

But if they'd have had another one ...

Revenge is sweet

Does it really matter who you beat in the Super Bowl? To the St. Louis Rams it did.

After losing to Tennessee 24-21 in Week 8 of the regular season, the Rams had a little payback on their minds.

"It sure is sweeter this way," Rams center Mike Gruttadauria said. "They've proven they could beat good teams like they did with Jacksonville thrice and like they did with us. It was in the back of our minds that they were coming in thinking 'We've beat this team and we can do it again.'"

Bishop OK

Titans safety Blaine Bishop rejoined his team at the Georgia Dome on Sunday after X-rays on his neck proved to be negative.

Bishop, the Titans' starting strong safety, was injured early in the third quarter while making a hit on Rams' safety Ernie Conwell. He jammed his neck into Conwell's lower body and lost feeling for awhile in his extremities. He was carted off the field after at least a 15-minute delay.

He was X-rayed at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and is expected to fly back to Nashville with the Titans on Monday.

Sure thing

Az-zahir Hakim insists he wasn't trying to be like Joe Namath when he made his guarantee of a Rams' victory earlier this week.

"I knew that this team had it in them," said Hakim, who had one catch for 17 yards. "That's all I was trying to say. I was confident in the abilities of this team and we proved way today."

Stopping the Freak

Rookie defensive lineman Jevon Kearse got a talking-to at halftime from some of his teammates, who he said expected more of him in a rather lackluster first half.

"They know how much a difference-maker I can be," Kearse said. "I guess they were just reminding me I'm a big part of the defense."

Lineman Kenny Holmes and Josh Evans were two of the players exhorting Kearse to turn it on in the second half. He did, too, knocking down two passes in the second half and pressuring St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner numerous times.

"A guy like Josh Evans," Kearse said, "you look at him and see that fire in his eyes ..."

Freak out

Fred Miller couldn't go many places this week without hearing Kearse's name. After committing six false starts lined up opposite "The Freak," who could blame Miller if he woke up in a cold sweat thinking of facing Kearse again?

But Sunday, Miller got the best of Kearse. No sweat.

Miller and the Rams held the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in check, holding him to only four tackles and, most importantly, no sacks.

"It definitely was a little vindication," Miller said. "But the main focus was to win the football game. If I would would have went out a had a great game, it wouldn't have meant nothing. I'm more excited about winning the game than a personal battle."

Kearse did get pressure on the Rams' go-ahead touchdown bomb to Isaac Bruce, missing Kurt Warner by nanoseconds.

"No one is going to remember the pressure that came on the touchdown," Miller said. "They're just going to remember the touchdown.

Quick strike

In many ways, it's amazing that the Titans came as close to tying the score in the final seconds of the game as they did.

The run-oriented Titans have not been known as a quick-strike offense.

"We felt like, with 1:57 left [actually 1:54], we had a chance to score," quarterback Steve McNair said. "It [scoring quickly] is in our repertoire. We just don't show it."

Praising Warner

Though many Titans characterized the game-winning pass from Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce as lucky -- Warner was being pressure by Kearse and actually underthrew the pass -- there was nothing but praise for the QB from nowhere who became league MVP and MVP of this Super Bowl.

"Kurt Warner showed how tough he is," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. "He got pounded, he got hit and he kept getting up to make some plays.

"He's no fluke."

Warner threw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, becoming the sixth player in NFL history to grab both regular-season and Super Bowl MVP awards.

The bottom lines

Sunday's game marked the first time in Eddie George's career that he ran the ball at least 27 times and the Titans did not win. Tennessee was 15-0 when George reached that many carries. Sunday, he ran 28 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns ... McNair ran for 64 yards, setting a Super Bowl record for QBs ... The game marked only the second Super Bowl without a turnover. The Rams had two fumbles and the Titans one, but the fumbling team recovered all of them.

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