History Lesson : Music City Miracle

Let’s continue with the miracle theme, shall we?

The first part of this history lesson should probably focus on reframing your perspective: there was a time in the not-so-distant past when it wasn’t at all abnormal for the Buffalo Bills to be perennial playoff hopefuls. Really. The 80’s and 90’s were the Bills’ golden years. They made the playoffs 10 out of 12 years in those decades, and even went to four Super Bowls back to back to back to back in the 90’s. They didn’t win any of them, but still, that’s a huge feat.

Then, in the ’99 season wildcard round in an away game against the Titans, something happened. And the Bills haven’t made a post-season appearance since.

That something, as you might surmise, was the Music City Miracle.

It was the 4th quarter. The Bills had just taken a 1-point lead by kicking a 41-yard field goal and were kicking it off to the Titans with 16 seconds remaining. The Bills objective was clear: do anything to run out the next 16 seconds and prevent the Titans from getting into field goal range.

Bills kicker Steve Christie kicked the ball off, and the Titans’ Lorenzo Neal made a standard catch. He then pitched it back to tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw it across the field to Kevin Dyson. Dyson proceeded to run, untouched, 75-yards for the touchdown, and the victory.

But it would be a few minutes before that victory was confirmed. Throwing a forward pass during a kickoff return is illegal, and if Wycheck’s pass had landed further ahead than where it was thrown, the touchdown would be revoked. It had to have been a lateral pass – a pass that goes either perfectly sideways or behind (and is legal at any point in the game).

The ref goes in. The ref comes out.

It was a lateral. Titans win a Music City Miracle, and eventually advance to the Super Bowl.

(That “1 Yard”? That’s another significant history lesson you can be looking forward to next week!)

History Lesson : Miracle(s) at the Meadowlands

Ever wonder how/when the victory formation came into existence? It’s a history lesson Giants fans would probably rather forget.

The Giants were in the midst of a woeful season in 1978 when they played the Eagles at the Meadowlands, the Giants home stadium. But that day, they found a way to get the win, and were 20 seconds away from closing out a 19-12 victory over Philadelphia.

Until the call came in to hand the ball off to star running back Larry Csonka on the next play instead of taking a knee. Csonka didn’t want the ball, didn’t want to risk having something happen in the final seconds of the game. But no one was going to change the play. They broke the huddle a little too late, lined up a little too quickly, and had a little too much confusion still amidst when the ball was snapped, unexpectedly.

Herman Edwards – player, coach, and now ESPN analyst – was a cornerback for the Eagles at that time. He was in the perfect position to scoop up the ball and run it into the end zone after the fumbled snap. I love his recollection of head coach Dick Vermeil’s reaction: “It dawned on him when he noticed people running by him. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ And someone said, ‘Herman ran it in for a touchdown!’ He never saw it until he watched the tape.”

Here’s what he saw:

The Eagles went on to the playoffs, the Giants went on to a firing spree, and everyone would talk about the Miracle at the Meadowlands for years to come. Ever since that game, someone always stands behind the quarterback in the victory formation, just in case another fumble should come to call.

But that wasn’t the only Miracle at the Meadowlands, and I have to say the second one is my favorite by far.

It was 2010. The Giants and Eagles were fighting for playoff position in Week 15 of the regular season. “Fighting” didn’t quite describe how the Eagles were playing during the first three quarters of the game – by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, they were down by 21 points.

This is the point in the game in which broadcasters scrape for commentary and everyone starts wondering if the network will flip to a better game.

It’s a good thing they didn’t, because over the course of seven minutes the Eagles scored three touchdowns to tie the game.

And then this happened:

And I’m pretty sure I screamed just as loud as any diehard Eagles fan when DeSean crossed the goal line, because a Giants loss meant my Packers still had a chance to make the playoffs as a wildcard team. (Which they did, and went on to win Super Bowl 45. Thank you, Eagles!)

How about you guys? Which is your favorite miracle?