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One to build on

Titans vow to remember the hurt of Super Bowl loss

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Posted: Monday January 31, 2000 03:30 AM

  Jeff Fisher Jeff Fisher took extra care to remind his troops after the game that they have a lot to be proud of this season. AP

By John Donovan,

ATLANTA -- Frank Wycheck stood in the end zone, watching the St. Louis Rams celebrate. Coach Jeff Fisher grabbed his quarterback, Steve McNair, in a close embrace and whispered in his ear.

Other players and coaches walked slowly onto the field at the Georgia Dome, the hurt of a near-miss just starting to settle in as confetti streamed down on the new world champs.

The Tennessee Titans lost the Super Bowl on Sunday in the harshest of fashions, falling a yard short on a last-gasp play that would have tied the game.

It was something they will remember -- and something they want to remember -- for a long time.

"You'd rather get beat by 50," McNair said after the 23-16 loss, "than get beat by inches."

The Titans, seemingly destiny's darlings for much of this season, were beaten Sunday by one of the most powerful offenses the NFL has seen. But the Titans walked out of the Dome vowing to get back to the big game again.

And win it this time.

"I told him we'll be back," Fisher said immediately after the game, relaying the message he had for McNair right after the final second ticked off. "But don't ever forget this moment."

The hurt of the loss was evident throughout the post-game postmortem. Some players sat quietly, staring into their lockers. Others made a quick dash to the bus. When many others talked, it was in a quiet monotone.

There were long faces all around.

Still, many others expressed a pride in hanging with the favored Rams until the very last second. And many pointed out how the Titans came back from a 16-0 hole to tie the score with 2:12 left.

"To lose a game that was so close, to know you were just half-a-foot away ... it hurts. But it was inevitable," linebacker Barron Wortham said. "Someone had to lose."

The Titans were knocked around in the first half, gaining only 89 yards and giving up 294 as the Rams took a 9-0 lead. But the Titans turned it around, outgaining the Rams 278 yards to 142 in the second half. More than half of the Rams' second-half yards came on one play, a 73-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the difference in the game.

Giving up one bad play -- and it was a play where many things went right -- was one reason the Titans weren't completely wiped out by the loss.

To a man, they know now they can play with the best teams in the NFL.

"Every time we work out, every time we're not feeling real good, just to think of [the Rams' celebration], that will push you," Wycheck said. "That's where we want to go."

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