Read the article here. You don’t have to, but please click because I’m obsessive about numbers.
There was a thread on Twitter this week about when you as an NFL fan became enthralled by the sport. Most of the answers represented a pretty young conversion, like first communion age. I was never a big fan of the NFL in my youth. I followed the Dolphins because I liked the colors. If I had been my brother’s age, born in 1970, I probably would have been a Steeler fan. I came a little later, 1974, and didn’t appreciate the championship run since I was unaware of the chasm of sorrow that was the team’s history before that decade.
I became connected to Dan Marino on those 80s Dolphins teams, but I knew, starting with the Super Bowl loss in 1984 to the 49ers, that they never were going to win it all. Perhaps that’s why I never went “all in”.
I disconnected when Marino and Shula retired. I loved Jimmy Johnson coaching the Hurricane teams in the mid to late 80s but I couldn’t get into the team.
I visited the construction site of what would be first named Adelphia Coliseum a year or two before the Oilers became the Titans. My mother took a look at how high the upper deck seats were and talked my dad into getting lower-bowl seats. They had to buy an extra ticket. That ticket, for the past 13 seasons, has been reserved for me.
I was there for the home opener, a dramatic 36-35 comeback win over the Bengals. I made it to a lot of the games that year. I still had a love for the Dolphins, and even wore Steeler gear when Pittsburgh visited the first time.
The 1999 playoff run changed that. This wasn’t a dynamic offensive team by any stretch of the imagination. Steve McNair, a player who threw for 16,000 yards in college way before spread offenses and 12-game regular seasons made 4,000-yard passing yard seasons not unusual, didn’t throw the ball much. It was the Eddie George show. What made the fans bond to McNair despite his pedestrian numbers was his toughness. He was, to use a cliché, country strong.
The Wild Card game against Buffalo was the first playoff game in Nashville. I was, ironically, in Houston at my cousin’s wedding. He scheduled the wedding in early January, which all kids who grew up in Baton Rouge know is the start of the offseason. I was, to put it mildly, hung over. I didn’t really see the entire game until I saw the NFL Films replay. This was what fans would recognize as a typical Jeff Fisher home playoff game play your cards way too tight to the vest kind of game. After kicking the field goal to take the 13-12 lead, Rob Johnson had what should have been the only moment of glory in his career, driving the Bills to a winning field goal with seconds to spare. There were too many seconds. Kevin Dyson’s mad touchdown return would have come in the corner of the end zone where my parents’ seats were. They gave the tickets to friends who were life-long Bills fans. That was not their best day.
The run continued to Jacksonville, and that’s the subject of my article today. It was me getting a chance to watch the AFC Championship game, one of four in franchise history, the one that they actually won, for the first time.
If you want to see the entire game, it’s on youtube. Isn’t the internet amazing?
Teams had played three times in a season before, and one team had swept the other before. It never happened like this. Never in NFL history did one team beat another three times to consistute all of the other team’s losses for the year. And never did an NFL team finish a three-game sweep by winning a road playoff game. Sadly, never would a Jeff Fisher team win multiple playoff games in a season.
The article’s a pretty extensive combination of stream-of-consciousness reactions and game recap. McNair made some plays with his legs, although he threw two interceptions (one called back by penalty) and fumbled twice. There wasn’t a lot of downfield passing. The Jaguars were very considerate in giving the ball to the Titans. At the same token, the Titan defense was hard-hitting which caused the fumbles and QB pressure helped with the interceptions. Today’s defense is missing that “punish them” mentality and the offense is certainly not smash mouth. It’s not really built that way.
I’ll post more of these in the future. There are a lot of Titan classic games out there and they’re not all the obvious ones like my first.