Bruce's 73-yard TD shocks Tennessee

Scoring play with 1: 54 left caps victory for Rams

Super Bowl Xxxvi

January 31, 2000|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ATLANTA -- After the NFC championship game, Tampa Bay's loquacious defensive tackle, Warren Sapp, said the St. Louis Rams' receivers moved "like roaches when the lights were turned on." The lights were bright all game long in the Georgia Dome last night.

The most overbearing pest the Tennessee Titans faced was Isaac Bruce.

In a flash, with one brilliant adjustment followed by a catch and cut as smooth as satin, Bruce reduced the Titans' most exuberant moment as a franchise to its most painful.

The Titans, with just more than two minutes left, were celebrating Al Del Greco's game-tying 43-yard field goal. It was their salvation, their shot in the arm in a game that not long before seemed out of their reach.

Up stepped Bruce, the Rams' ace receiver, to put the game out of their reach for good.

He took cornerback Denard Walker straight down the right sideline, and when he saw that Kurt Warner's throw would fall a little short, Bruce corrected himself, caught the ball, and completed a 73-yard scoring play with 1 minute, 54 seconds left.

"We called the play earlier," Warner said. "We knew the play was open, so we went to it."

The Rams fans among the packed house of 72,625 let out a thunderous roar, while Bruce and his teammates celebrated, shaking their heads as if they didn't believe it themselves.

Bruce's play provided the perfect punctuation for a season in which the Rams struck opponents dead with swift bolts from above.

All of the Rams' receivers, including running back Marshall Faulk, have shown great skill running with the ball after the catch, and Bruce did nothing on this play to shame them.

After taking in the ball, Bruce broke back inside at the Tennessee 40-yard line, leaving Titans defenders sprawled on the carpet.

"I always believed in myself," Bruce said, "and now a whole lot of people believe in me."

Bruce finished with six catches for 162 yards, the third-highest yardage total in Super Bowl history behind Jerry Rice and Ricky Sanders.

That particular Super Bowl moment was a fitting tribute to a man who just a year ago was at the center of a frustrating situation, when his dedication was questioned by Dick Vermeil.

Rookie Torry Holt also had a great night, catching seven balls for 109 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown that put the Rams up, 16-0, with 7: 20 left in third quarter.

Though Holt's contribution was big, it just didn't have the drama that Bruce's catch did.

"They can strike from anywhere, anytime," Titans running back Eddie George said. "You saw Isaac Bruce do it tonight."

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