Even after Steve Christie's 41-yard field goal gave Buffalo an apparent 16-15 victory with 16 seconds remaining, the Titans kept their eyes on the prize. They knew what was coming—Home Run Throwback, a play Lowry patterned after a similar return for a touchdown that propelled SMU over Texas Tech and preserved the Mustangs' undefeated season in 1982. Home Run Throwback is designed to burn an overpursuing coverage team. There was a slight problem, however: The star didn't know the script.
Injuries to two of Tennessee's top three return men, Derrick Mason (concussion) and Anthony Dorsett (cramps), led Lowry to turn to Dyson, a second-year receiver who before Saturday was known chiefly (and unflatteringly) as the only wideout drafted ahead of the Minnesota Vikings' Randy Moss in 1998. Dyson, who had neither practiced the play nor returned an NFL kickoff, got a quick tutorial from Fisher seconds before racing onto the field.
The play featured a 5-4-2 alignment, with Dyson joining wideout Issac Byrd as deep men and Wycheck as the second man from the right on the middle line. Expecting a squib kick, the Titans shifted linebacker Greg Favors, the man in the middle of the front line, to his left in order to create a gap. The idea was to lure Christie into grounding the ball straight ahead, where Wycheck would be in position to field it. But Christie instead sent a mid-range kick toward the left of the Titans' alignment, and Neal caught it on the fly. "Luckily," Fisher says, "it was high enough for Frank to get over to take the ball from Lorenzo. The reason their coverage broke down was because Lorenzo got the ball to Frank."
Had Christie kicked the ball deep, another Titans player, probably Byrd, would have thrown the pass. But Wycheck, who zinged a 61-yard touchdown pass to Byrd off a trick play in Tennessee's 30-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 19, is the man Fisher wanted to make the toss-ideally, to Byrd, who would then run a sort of option sprint with Dyson at his left.
Wycheck, a seventh-year tight end who caught a team-high 69 passes this season, is long on talent and short on attitude. While hosting a Super Bowl party last year, he got a call from Titans media relations director Tony Wyllie, who informed Wycheck he had made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. "You're messing with me," said Wycheck, who remained unconvinced until an NFL official called later.
Wycheck took Neal's handoff and started to his right, taking 10 Bills with him. Then he stopped at the 25-yard line and, spotting Dyson in perfect position, bypassed Byrd and threw a strike. Depending on one's vantage point, the ball went either straight across the field or a tad forward before landing in Dyson's anxious hands. (Bills cornerback Thomas Smith said several Titans told him immediately after the game that they believed the pass traveled forward; referee Phil Luckett upheld the call after a replay review.) Dyson had a row of blockers—"He looked like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, with all those bodyguards," said Carolina Panthers linebacker Micheal Barrow, who watched his former team's victory from the Adelphia stands—and only Christie, who would be knocked off his feet by linebacker Terry Killens, to beat.
Afterward, in a jubilant Titans locker room, Adams was asked about the possibility of extending Fisher's contract, which expires after next season. Without committing himself, Adams asked, "Who wouldn't want him around for a long time? He's a first-class guy who communicates with his players and is great in the community."
Back home that night, Fisher shared his finest hour with the community he cherishes most, a group that included his parents, Roger and Janette, and his and Juli's three children, 12-year-old Brandon, nine-year-old Tara and seven-year-old Trent. Burgers were flipped, fireworks were detonated, and the makeshift dance floor was the hottest spot of all. Juli, a former Rose Bowl princess who met Jeff at a luncheon before USC's 1979 appearance in the granddaddy of 'em all, announced that to honor Lowry's trick play, she was "surrendering her crown" to Alan's wife, Donna. With Jan and Dean's Little Old Lady from Pasadena blaring, Juli presented Donna with a gold lame jacket, matching boots, a pink rose and a green cardboard crown.
Juli danced for another hour before the inevitable disco selection, Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing, came over the speakers. The erstwhile princess looked positively regal as she gestured toward her husband and shouted along with the lyrics, "I believe in miracles!"
Fisher flashed a broad smile, and suddenly it felt as if he and Juli were the only ones in the room. "Hey, Jules," he said softly, "I believe in them, too."