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Titans come up just short against Baltimore

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have been involved in some wacky finishes in their short history. This was as wild of any of them.

The Titans lost 16-10 Monday night to Baltimore after they had the winning TD called back by a Ravens penalty when the play was dead because Baltimore was offsides.

Then Steve McNair failed to get the foot he needed for the winning TD and the Ravens danced off the field.

''We finally had a Monday night game worth staying up for,'' Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. ''Unbelievable. Unbelievable sequence of events.''

The sequence was right up there with the two events that define the Titans -- the ''Music City Miracle'' two years ago and the Super Bowl that same season.

In the first, Kevin Dyson took a lateral on the kickoff of final play of a playoff game with Buffalo and returned it 75 yards for the winning touchdown. In the Super Bowl, Dyson came up a yard short of the tying TD against St. Louis on the final play.

Dyson was involved in this one, too, catching a 5-yard pass from McNair at the 1 as the clock ticked down. The Ravens quickly lined up and with players all over the field and McNair pushed into the end zone for what seemed to be the winning score.

But the officials huddled and referee Bernie Kukar finally announced that because Peter Boulware was offsides when he touched a Tennessee player, the play was dead. The ball was moved 1 foot from the end zone but McNair's sneak was stuffed when Baltimore sent all 11 defenders at the goal line.

''I guess if you're in this game long enough, you think at times that you've seen it all, then you experience this,'' said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL's rule-making competition committee.

''This will be a defining moment for our football team. To have this game come down to inches and seconds and hand it to someone else. We do not like the interpretation of the call. But by rule it is correct.''

It's also extremely damaging to the Titans.

Baltimore (6-3) moved within a half-game of Pittsburgh in the AFC Central, but Tennessee (3-5) dropped into a tie for last in the six-team division with Jacksonville.

''It took me six months to get over the Super Bowl. I have six hours to get over this,'' Fisher said.

''It's just a nauseous feeling,'' Tennessee's Frank Wycheck said. ''First you're really mad and the next it's just sickening. We wanted it so bad and the guys battled so hard and laid it all out on the field. It's just frustrating.''

The game was scoreless for a half and there were punts on the first eight possessions as two defensive powers struggled to gain yards.

But it opened up in the third quarter as McNair threw a 22-yard pass to Dyson to give the Titans a 10-3 lead. Elvis Grbac tied it minutes later with a short dump to Qadry Ismail for a 57-yard TD.

As he so often does, Ray Lewis made a game-turning play, forcing a fumble by Eddie George early in the fourth quarter that Boulware recovered. That set up Matt Stover's go-ahead field goal from 31 yards.

The Ravens made it a six-point game when Stover added a 33-yarder with just over three minutes left.

But the Tennessee offense then began to move. A 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Michael McCrary put the ball at the 20. The Titans eventually got to the 6, where McNair threw two incomplete passes into the end zone before finding Dyson at the 1.

Then came the officials.

''They never spotted the ball,'' Billick said of the officials. ''Their center took the ball and spotted it. The play never should have gone off in the first place. What a travesty if we indeed had lost the game under those circumstances.''

''It's a nailbiter every time we come here,'' Ray Lewis said. ''The games right here have tradition.''

And the Titans have only been in this stadium for three years.

Notes: Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharp tied Ozzie Newsome's NFL record for catches by a tight end. He got his only two receptions in the fourth quarter, giving him 662 for his career. ... Stover's field goal extended his streak to 16 consecutive kicks, and he now has a field goal in 35 straight games. ... Billick is 30-15, including 5-2 against the Titans. ... Frank Chamberlin replaced Titans LB Randall Godfrey, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee ago. That ended a streak of 77 consecutive starts for Godfrey. ... Titans LB Keith Bulluck's interception was his first of the season, second of his career. ... Nedney's field goal ended a streak of four missed field goals.



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