In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. The game started slowly but had a dramatic finish as Tennessee rallied from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. It took the Rams just one play to answer as MVP Kurt Warner connected with Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard pass. Looking to tie the game again, Kevin Dyson is tackled at the one-yard line by Mike Jones on the game’s final play.
In the first Super Bowl of the new millennium and the first to be broadcast in high definition as pair of surprise teams that had only in recent years moved to new locations. The St. Louis Rams had a mix of old and new on their team. Five years after relocation from Los Angeles they were still searching for their identity as they made a big splash deal to acquire Marshall Faulk. Coached by Dick Vermeil, who had once retired after not being able to handle the stress, the Rams season appeared to be derailed before the season even began as Trent Green, who had been acquired in the offseason suffered a terrible knee injury in the preseason. Left with Kurt Warner, a former Arena League quarterback who worked as a grocery bagger, the Rams appeared all but certain to miss the playoffs for a tenth straight season. However, Warner became an overnight sensation as the Rams won their first six games. Kurt Warner would go to win NFL MVP as the Rams posted a record of 13-3 thanks to a high scoring offense that would be called “The Greatest Show on Turf.” In the playoffs, the Rams showed they could win games with their offense, beating the Minnesota Vikings 49-37 while scraping by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-6 in the NFC Championship.
The Tennessee Titans were the former Houston Oilers, giving longtime owner Bud Adams his first trip to the big game. The Titans were in their third season in Tennessee, when they decided to change their name and logo with the opening of the Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville as they felt the name Oilers did not mesh well with the fans in Tennessee. Coached by Jeff Fisher, the Titans posted a record 13-3 but needed the Music City Miracle to beat the Buffalo Bills 22-16. After upsetting the Indianapolis Colts 19-16 in the Divisional Round, the Titans moved on to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars were an NFL best 14-2 in 1999, both losses came at the hands to Tennessee. Once again, the Titans would beat their division 33-14 to advance to the Super Bowl.
The Titans offense sputtered throughout the first half of Super Bowl XXXIV, as the Rams were showing that they could win with their defense just as much as their offense. After Al Del Greco missed a 47-yard field goal on their drive, the only scoring chance that Tennessee had in the first two quarters. The Rams meanwhile were going through the Titans’ defense with ease but were unable to get in the end zone. The first drive ended with a botched snap on a field goal try. The Rams would find themselves settling for field goals at the end of every drive in the first half as Jeff Wilkins made good on three of four attempts to give St. Louis a 9-0 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, the Titans drove down the field but saw Del Greco’s field goal attempt get blocked by Todd Lyght. The Rams meanwhile finally found the end zone on their first possession of the second half, as Torry Holt caught a nine-yard touchdown strike from Kurt Warner. Down 16-0, the Titans shifted into the hurry-up offense and began to find their stride, as they methodically marched down the field 66 yards with Eddie George popping into the end zone. Looking to make it a one-score game, the Titans were unable to get the two-point conversion and trailed 16-6 as the third quarter came to an end.
There was a sense that momentum was shifting as the Rams went three and out to begin the fourth quarter. Once again, Titans had a long drive to keep the pressure on the Rams’ defense, going 79-yard in six minutes, with George again carrying the load and finding the end zone. The Titans superstar back was making his case for MVP rushing for 95 yards on 28 carries while catching a pair of passes for 35 yards. It would take just one minute to get the ball back as the Rams went three and out again, giving Tennessee a chance to tie the game or take the lead, trailing 16-13 with 6:17 to play. The Titans would drive deep into Rams territory again with Al Del Greco hitting a 43-yard field goal to tie the game 16-16 with just over two minutes left.
The Rams were reeling, what was once a 16-0 lead was now a 16-16 tie as Kurt Warner had the ball on their own 27, hoping to get down the field to win the game. Rather than drive down the field slowly, the Rams went for the home run, with Isaac Bruce reeling in a 74-touchdown catch to put St. Louis back in front 23-16. The touchdown came just as the two-minute warning struck, giving Steve McNair a chance to answer with one timeout. McNair, who struggled in the first half, was more than up for the challenge diving the Titans closer and closer to the end zone as time slipped away. The Titans were either going to tie the game or run out of time; the Rams were no longer going to simply win the game. Down to the ten-yard line with six seconds left, it was first down for Tennessee, but they only had one shot at the end zone. Steve McNair found Kevin Dyson in the slot, and it appeared as if he was heading for the end zone when Mike Jones grabbed him and took down just one yard away from tying the game as the time ran out.
The ending was one of the most thrilling in Super Bowl history as Mike Jones forever became known for making what was simply called the tackle, allowing the Rams to hold on to a 23-16 win in Super Bowl XXXIV. It was perhaps the most dramatic fashion in the first 34 Super Bowls as up to that point, only one other Super Bowl had been decided on the game’s final play. Kurt Warner was named the MVP of Super Bowl, setting a new record by passing for 414 yards. Steve McNair also had a solid game, passing for 214 yards as neither team committed a turnover.