Special to ESPN.com
This is why:
Six seconds remain in Super Bowl XXXIV. The St. Louis Rams cling to a 23-16 lead after a first-down, 73-yard lightning bolt of a touchdown strike from NFL MVP quarterback Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce with 1:54 left in the game.
The Tennessee Titans, who tied this Super Bowl showdown at 16-16 with 2:21 left, thanks to the arm and legs of incomparable quarterback Steve McNair, take over at their own 12, following the Rams' kickoff. They have one timeout left. Not that the nail-biting pressure fazes McNair, who throws a 9-yard completion to Derrick Mason and a 7-yarder to Frank Wycheck, then runs 12 yards (another 15 yards is tacked on when the Rams' Dre Bly is called for a face-mask penalty). Next, McNair throws 7 yards to Kevin Dyson, putting the Titans in range with 22 seconds to play.
Next play: McNair takes the snap, scrambles out of the pocket, looks downfield, looks left, looks right, and, just as he is about to be crushed by Rams defensive linemen Kevin Carter and Jay Williams, McNair eludes them. The two linemen comically crash into each other, as in a scene from a Road Runner cartoon. McNair stumbles, nearly falling to the turf, but he regains his balance and fires a blistering 16-yard strike to Dyson that moves the Titans to the Rams' 10. The clock reads 0:06.
At the Georgia Dome, the crowd of 72,625 is roaring. Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel, up in the booth, frantically suggests into his headset, "Sliver Right. Go Sliver Right." Listening at the other end is Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, standing on the sidelines with McNair. At the other side of the press box sits Rams defensive coordinator Peter Giunt, playing the ultimate chess match in the ultimate football game as he tries reading Steckel's mind, trying to figure out what play Steckel will call.
After conferring with Fisher on the sidelines, the cool, composed McNair returns to the huddle to call the final play of the season, the final play of the greatest final two-minute span in Super Bowl history. The call is "Sliver Right," a play the Titans had only used three times, all in practice, all resulting in touchdowns, a play never before seen by an opponent.
The play requires Dyson to run an inside slant and receive the ball on the run at the five, and for tight end Frank Wycheck to line up next to Dyson and run a vertical route into the end zone, taking two Rams defensive players with him. That would leave Dyson with single coverage in the middle of the field, enabling him to saunter into the end zone to create the first overtime in Super Bowl history. "In the huddle, there wasn't any doubt whatsoever that we were going to score," Dyson says. "None whatsoever."
Rams coach Dick Vermeil, without any resignation whatsoever, tells Mike Martz, his offensive coordinator, "Script the first three plays. We're going to overtime."
Dyson goes in motion to avert getting jammed at the line and to disguise his route. As McNair takes the snap, Wycheck runs straight up the seam toward the end zone and Rams linebacker Mike Jones drops back with Wycheck. But as Dyson makes his move at the 7-yard line and slants inside, Jones drops off Wycheck, realizing the pass is going to Dyson. "I saw his eyes get big," Jones would say later.
As McNair cocks his arm and releases the ball, Jones makes his break toward Dyson. The ball arrives in Dyson's arms at the 5, and Jones, who is only three yards away, closes fast. The clocks reads 0:04.
Before Dyson takes his second stride, Jones lunges at him. Stretching out horizontally as far as he can with his right arm, Jones grabs Dyson's right leg, just below the hip. Jones grabs Dyson hard and spins him, preventing him from moving another inch. "I thought I could run right through Mike's arm, but suddenly my feet stopped," Dyson recalls.
As the clock ticks down to 0:02, Dyson hits the ground and tries to stretch his hand and the ball to the goal line. Realizing he can't reach it, Dyson rolls over on his stomach, switches the ball to his left hand and tries stretching it across the goal line again. Too short again. As Dyson looks up at the clock, it ticks from 0:01 to 0:00. Game over. Rams win and Jones, unable to comprehend what he's just accomplished, goes numb as his teammates mob him.
"Greatest play in Super Bowl history," Vermeil would say later. "I still can't get over it, even after all this time. In certain moments, relaxing moments, I see the play over and over in my head. It was simply a brilliant play by Mike Jones, a beautiful moment."
When asked about impact of Jones' play, Vermeil pauses for a moment, ponders the question, and says, "From that moment on, every great defensive play in Super Bowl will always be measured by Mike's. And I doubt if they'll ever be a greater play made on the final play of a Super Bowl with one second left on the clock. It just isn't possible."