Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8, 2000: Music City Miracle

NASHVILLE - You practice and practice a play, all season long. Desipte the grumbles of "this will never work" or "we'll never need to run this play anyway," you keep doing it. Every week, the same play, the one you secretly hope you never have to run, but the one you want to be prepared for if you do.

Then the situation comes up. Trailing 16-15 with 16 seconds left in the game, about to receive the kickoff, you make the call. "Home Run Throwback." It's the moment you had been preparing for all season, the play you had hoped you'd never have to run.

The kick comes short, avoiding the speedy returners in the back. Just as expected. The fullback catches the kick - that's not right. It's supposed to be the tight end. He's supposed to be the key player in this play. But the fullback knows this, so he finds the tight end, hands it off to him before going upfield to block. It's an odd sight - a fullback handing off to a tight end on a kickoff return. But the defense doesn't think anything's amiss. They're following the ball.

The tight end plants his right foot, stops and spins, and throws back across the field. The receiver is there and ... well, here's where a bit of luck had to come in. All season long, you had been practicing this play with Mason, had run it to perfection with Mason. But Mason was hurt. Kevin Dyson got thrown in at the last minute. He didn't really understand the play as drawn up, which is why he had advanced a bit downfield when Wychek threw that ball back across the field. But Dyson was paying attention. He stepped back, caught the ball at his shoetops, and was gone.

When he catches it, he's got the sideline, plus a convoy of blockers out in front of him. Nobody from Buffalo has any chance at him. The play was only designed to advance into field goal range, set up a game-winning field goal, but it's going to do much more than that. Dyson, escorted by two teammates, runs toward the end zone. Nobody from the Bills touches him.

Touchdown. Bedlam. Miracle.

And now the replay review. That pass, the ball thrown across the field, was so painfully close. Was it forward? Backward? You look at the replay, and it, improbably, seems to be straight across the field, maybe just slightly backward. Just slightly. Still, though. It's painful to wait for the call. It could go either way.

The official comes out. Arms in the air.

Touchdown. Bedlam in Tennesse. Dispair for Buffalo.

The Music City Miracle is born.

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