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St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16
Posted: Monday January 31, 2000 01:05 AM
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ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Kurt Warner Story ended in triumph for the St. Louis Rams, thanks to linebacker Mike Jones.

Warner connected with Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard scoring play with 1:54 remaining and Jones prevented overtime with a tackle of Kevin Dyson at the 1-yard line to preserve a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV at the Georgia Dome.

Warner authored perhaps the most remarkable season in NFL history with a Super Bowl-record 414 passing yards, surpassing Joe Montana's mark of 357 yards in Super Bowl XXIV against Cincinnati.

"I always believed in myself and I got a whole bunch of people here that believed in me," said Warner, who completed 24-of-45 passes. "As long as I had those guys I was going to give them everything I had."

After toiling in virtual anonymity in the Arena League and NFL Europe, Warner became the NFL's most improbable Most Valuable Player during the season. Tonight, he completed the script with Super Bowl MVP honors.

"Kurt Warner is Kurt Warner. It is not a fairy tale, it is real life," Rams coach Dick Vermeil said. "He is an example of what we all like to be on and off the field. He is a great example of persistence and believing in himself and a deep faith."

The Rams, who relocated from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995, won their first NFL championship since 1951. They made their only previous Super Bowl appearance 20 years ago. Vermeil became only the fourth coach to take two franchises to a Super Bowl, guiding Philadelphia 19 years ago.

In defeat, the Titans staged the greatest rally in Super Bowl history, erasing a 16-0 third-quarter deficit. Al Del Greco's 43-yard field goal with 2:12 left tied the game.

Faced with having to prove he could orchestrate a game-winning, two-minute drill, Warner needed just one play to put St. Louis back into the lead. With the Rams at their 27, Warner lofted a pass down the right sideline before being knocked to the ground by defensive end Jevon Kearse. Bruce slowed a bit to make the catch over cornerback Denard Walker at the Tennessee 38, cut past safety Anthony Dorsett to the middle of the field and raced into the end zone.

But Tennessee fought back as quarterback Steve McNair marched the Titans 78 yards in nine plays to the St. Louis 10 with six seconds left.

On the game's final play, McNair fired a pass to Dyson, who ran a quick slant from the right to the middle inside the 5. But as Dyson appeared to be heading toward the end zone, Jones reacted quickly from his outside linebacker position and made the tackle at the 1.

As Dyson vainly attempted to stretch the ball past the goal line while lying on the turf, Rams players leaped in celebration in perhaps the wildest ending in Super Bowl history.

"It was 3-on-2, the safety, myself and the DB on the tight end and the wide receiver," Jones said. "Both their guys went upfield, so I'm thinking they're going to run the tight end on the inside route. But I guess they must have been studying our defense, because he (Dyson) made a quick inside cut. I sam him plant in the cut, and I broke on it, and I ended up making the tackle and the game was over."

Dyson admitted he "definitely" thought he would score after catching the pass.

"As soon as I caught it I was thinking yellow paydirt," Dyson said. "When we called the play, I didn't think anybody would be in the middle of the field."

Bruce had six catches for 162 yards, rookie Torry Holt added seven for 109 and running back Marshall Faulk five for 90. Faulk, who set an NFL record for scrimmage yards this season, was held to 17 yards on 10 carries.

McNair was 22-of-36 for 214 yards. He was more effective as a runner, amassing a quarterback-record 64 yards on eight rushes. Tight ends Jackie Harris and Frank Wycheck combined for 12 catches for 99 yards.

The Titans (16-4) appeared in the Super Bowl for the first time in the history of the franchise. They were the sixth wild card team to reach the championship.

Panned in some circles this week as the "Hee-Haw Bowl," the surprise teams ended up staging perhaps the most dramatic Super Bowl of them all.

In Super Bowl V, Jim O'Brien kicked a 32-yard field goal in the final five seconds to give Baltimore a 16-13 victory over Dallas. In Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Montana threw a game-winning touchdown pass with 34 seconds left to give San Francisco a 20-16 victory over Cincinnati. In Super Bowl XXV, Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal and the New York Giants held on to beat Buffalo, 20-19.

Only those Super Bowls could rival this one for dramatic endings. Like Super Bowl XXV, this game featured no turnovers.

The Rams dominated for 2 1/2 quarters with their fast-break, PlayStation offense, compiling 294 yards in the first half. But after reaching the red zone on their first five possessions, they managed just three field goals by Jeff Wilkins.

Warner's nine-yard touchdown pass to Holt with 7:20 left in the third quarter increased St. Louis' lead to 16-0.

The touchdown came three plays after Titans safety Blaine Bishop had to be carted off the field with a neck injury. X-rays taken at Piedmont Hospital were negative.

Despite appearing deflated, the Titans put together a 12-play, 66-yard drive which resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Eddie George with 14 seconds left in the quarter. However, McNair misfired on a conversion pass to Wycheck.

Tennessee pulled within 16-13 on George's second TD of the game, a second-effort two-yard run with 7:21 remaining.

After being held to 18 yards on seven carries in the first half, George had 77 yards on 21 carries in the second half.

McNair completed 22-of-36 passes for 214 yards and rushed for 64 yards, a Super Bowl record for a quarterback.

"We came back in the second half determined not to make those same mistakes as we did in the first half and things worked out good for us," McNair said. "We had a chance in the end, we just came up short."

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