Last play of Super Bowl loss continues to motivate Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The image of Kevin Dyson stretching to reach the end zone, only to fall a yard short of the first overtime in Super Bowl history, is one the Tennessee Titans can't shake.
And they don't want to until they can call themselves champions.
"Our motivation this year is not only do we want to get there, we don't want to come up one yard short," receiver Derrick Mason said. "Anything less than the Super Bowl is going to be a disappointment."
The Titans certainly are on track to become the first AFC team to return to the Super Bowl after losing the previous year since the Buffalo Bills' four-peat ended in 1994. Tennessee has the NFL's best record at 13-3, won its first AFC Central title since 1993 and enjoyed a bye this weekend as the AFC's top seed.
Credit their 23-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams in perhaps the most thrilling finish to a Super Bowl.
The Titans fully expected to tie the game when Steve McNair found Dyson slanting across the middle on the final play. But Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Dyson and held on for dear life, stopping him at the 1. Dyson finally quit struggling once he realized he couldn't break free with no time left on the clock.
After the Titans wandered into the locker room dazed by defeat, head coach Jeff Fisher pounced on the play, reminding them how they came just 36 inches from forcing overtime -- and perhaps winning the championship.
Tight end Frank Wycheck recalled Fisher saying: "This is going to have to be our focal point, and how hard you work in the offseason, think about this moment right now -- how it feels to come up a yard short -- and work that much harder to get back and finish the job."
That yard pushed the Titans through February and March when they headed to gyms on their own as part of the team's offseason workouts, and then into May and June minicamps.
When the Titans reported for training camp in July, Fisher knew it was time to switch gears.
"He basically nipped it in the bud," Mason said. "He let us know, 'OK, we came up one yard short. We've got to put that behind us. We've got to press on and go forward to more and better things.'"
Fisher admits using the play as a motivational tool was walking on a fine line.
"You just can't talk about it all year. You don't want to talk about Tampa Bay [site of this season's Super Bowl] when you're getting ready for the opener," Fisher said.
"You have to do what we did, ... and that's take it by a step-by-step process. Now we're here, and having home field here and a week off certainly gives you a better opportunity to get where you want to go."
Right tackle Fred Miller has watched how his teammates keep the Super Bowl memory alive. He celebrated the victory as a member of the Rams, but joined the Titans in February as a free agent.
"That empty feeling of not winning the game has really motivated the guys," said Miller, who showed off his Super Bowl ring during training camp.
Several Titans have asked him what it was like in the Rams' locker room after the Super Bowl.
"It's something you have to go through -- like your first kid being born. It's a great sensation, and words really can't describe what you're feeling," he said.