February 25, 2024

New Fury Media

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“One Yard Short” – Remembering Super Bowl XXXIV, 14 Years Later

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A game played on 100 yards of grass or turf often comes down to a matter of yards. Sometimes only a few inches separates a team from an incredible victory – or a soul-crushing defeat. As fans of the game of football, we bear witness to these feats of greatness.

Time passes us by very fast, it seems. Before you know it, three, five, even ten years have gone by faster than you can blink. But there are events in our lives that will never be forgotten – where you were on 9/11, the moment after you’re officially married – and for sports fans, where you were on the day your team won a championship.

There’s nothing better than that feeling. One for the underdogs and the best Cinderella story the sports world is ever likely to see.

It’s been 14 years since the tackle by Rams linebacker Mike Jones that stopped the Titans from tying (and possibly winning) Super Bowl 34 – which is, in my opinion, one of the best Super Bowls ever played. The game had it all – an offense that set records and put up video game-esque numbers, a mobile quarterback in Steve McNair, and an incredible Cinderella story that seems to good to be true.

Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was passed over so many times, you’d think his confidence would’ve been destroyed. How do you keep the fire burning for a future that isn’t likely to exist? One would think that stocking shelves during the graveyard shift isn’t the best place to keep hope alive – but he did. And then Arena Football came calling. Next, the NFL.

All you need is one shot to prove yourself. Some falter, but some run with the opportunity and become stars. That’s exactly what Warner did – garnering the NFL MVP and winning the Super Bowl for the seventh time in league history. It certainly helped that he had a plethora of weapons in Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, rookie Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl, and Az-Zahir Hakim. Faulk is already enshrined in Canton, and Bruce (and maybe Holt) should be there someday.

On the Titans side, they had a number of compelling reasons to get behind them, too. Formerly based in Houston as the Oilers, that franchise had made the playoffs a number of times, and had players like Earl Campbell, Warren Moon, and Dan Pastorini playing for them at one point.

But after being on the losing end of the greatest comeback in NFL history to the Buffalo Bills, something had to change. Owner Bud Adams was tired of losing in the playoffs – and the ultimatum he issued for the 1993-94 season was simple: reach the Super Bowl, or the team will be dismantled. Adams made good on his promise, despite the Oilers going 12-4 and losing in the divisional playoffs to the Chiefs. Trading star QB Warren Moon to Minnesota, the Oilers never again made the playoffs in Houston, and they were eventually moved to Tennessee and rebranded the Titans. However, many of the building blocks for the 1999-2000 season were drafted during this time – especially QB Steve McNair, who remains one of the best scrambling signal-callers in NFL history.

It took the 1999-2000 Titans quite a bit to get to Super Bowl XXXIV at all. They went 13-3 in the regular season, but entered the playoffs as just a Wild Card. They were down 16-15 with almost no time left to play…but then this happened:

The Titans then faced the Indianapolis Colts with second-year QB Peyton Manning at the helm, but advanced to the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, where they marched into Jacksonville and beat them down by 19 to advance to the Super Bowl.

It was exciting on the Rams front as well, as they defeated the Vikings and their high-powered offense, setting up an NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their phenomenal defense. A low-scoring effort, the Bucs forced Kurt Warner into 3 interceptions – and the highest scoring offense in league history at the time – without a touchdown, heading into the 4th quarter.

But then, Ricky Proehl happened.

The stage was set for Super Bowl XXXIV – two teams that hadn’t won the Lombardi Trophy before were matched up in a battle for the ages. It didn’t disappoint. An unstoppable force met the immovable object.

3 feet, 36 inches, 1 yard. That’s all it would’ve taken for the Titans to tie (or win) Super Bowl XXXIV. But Rams linebacker Mike Jones provided the climactic finish to the game, with one final tackle on Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson to win the game.

On a team known for their offense, the defense was the reason why the Rams won that day. All the people who didn’t think it was possible for a former grocery store worker to rise up to NFL stardom need only read this quote from Warner after the game.

“How can you be in awe of something that you expect yourself to do?” Warner pointed out. “People think this season is the first time I touched a football; they don’t realize I’ve been doing this for years – just not on this level, because I never got the chance. Sure, I had my tough times, but you don’t sit there and say, ‘Wow, I was stocking groceries five years ago, and look at me now.’ You don’t think about it, and when you do achieve something, you know luck has nothing to do with it.”

One yard. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to win or lose.

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