In the end, Titans fail to measure up again

As against Rams, Tenn. gets within feet of victory, but leave short, frustrated

Ravens 16, Titans 10

November 13, 2001|By Chip Cirillo | Chip Cirillo,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Titans couldn't even get a half yard.

That's all Tennessee needed on the final play for the winning touchdown, but Steve McNair was shut down on a quarterback keeper as the Ravens held on for a 16-10 victory last night.

"I'd like to say it shouldn't have come down to that, but it did," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher. "It could have come down to making a field goal, a better snap, making tackles or maybe another turnover on defense, but it didn't."

McNair tried to go up the middle on the final play, but there was nowhere to go, so he ran to the right side where he was stopped by strong safety Corey Harris with help from linebackers Jamie Sharper and Ray Lewis. Harris was a star player at Vanderbilt, whose stadium is just five miles from Adelphia Coliseum.

"Our players are not in a very good mood right now," Fisher said. "The other option was to throw it. We put it in the hands of our quarterback, and I thought we had a chance to win it."

It appeared the Titans had won on the previous play when McNair sneaked it in, but a Ravens player was offside so the play was nullified. Kevin Dyson caught a 5-yard pass at the Ravens' 1-yard line to set up the play.

Dyson was stopped a half yard short of the goal line for the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl two seasons ago against the St. Louis Rams.

"Those are two different circumstances," Fisher said. "The difference between the Super Bowl and this one was that I had about six months to get over it and I have about six hours to get over this."

The agonizing part of the defeat for Fisher was that he thought his team had won on McNair's first keeper, which came before the Ravens' defense had time to get set.

"You've got a lot of things going on," Fisher said. "You've got to get them lined up in a legal formation, you have all these different options and Steve has the presence of mind to sneak the ball and score in that situation.

"I saw the official's initial signal it as a touchdown and I saw the flag go down. And I saw him signal touchdown again. It was not reviewed, it was interpretation of the rule.

"They got together and discussed it and felt that the defensive player [linebacker Peter Boulware] made contact with the offensive player prior to the snap and that was the explanation. [They ruled] the play should be shut down, the play should be stopped."

The referee told Fisher that Boulware came across the line of scrimmage before the snap and made contact with the offensive line, nullifying the touchdown play.

The officials moved the ball half the distance to the goal line to the half-yard line, but the Ravens' vaunted defense clogged up all the running lanes on the final play.

"Let me explain something: That is not an easy call," Fisher said. "That was not an easy thing for [referee] Bernie Kukar to do. Bernie's job is to go by the rules and that's what he did."

It was another agonizing defeat for McNair, who has watched the Titans lose five of their past six games to the Ravens.

McNair could not understand why the referees did not blow his touchdown dead immediately after the first keeper.

"They did not blow the whistle dead ... the play should go on," McNair said. "If they committed contact before the play, the they should stop the play. But to go on and to have a conversation for 15 or 20 minutes and then change the outcome of the score. Yeah, I'm very disappointed."

NOTE: Tight end Frank Wycheck suffered an ankle injury and cornerback Andre Dyson sustained a concussion for the Titans.

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