Los Angeles Times

One play, one tackle, puts Rams over the top

Kevin Dyson made the catch just inside the 5 and turned toward the end zone, straining his arm toward the goal line and praying it would stretch far enough to save the Super Bowl.

Rams linebacker Mike Jones wrapped up Dyson below the waist and held on with all his might, just the way his coaches had been teaching it for years.

One of the most fundamental skills on any football field — the art of tackling — made the difference in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Jones held Dyson out of the end zone by three tantalizing feet and St. Louis held on for a 23-16 victory over Tennessee.

"When you're a little kid, you dream about scoring touchdowns, not stopping them,'' Jones said. "I just grabbed him, held on and fell down. When I looked up, the clock said `zero-zero' and we had won the Super Bowl.''

Tennessee's last-second drive began at the Rams' 12 with 1:54 remaining and one timeout.

As he had all season, Steve McNair never lost his cool. He moved the team down and gave the Titans a final chance for yet another miracle.

There were six seconds remaining and Tennessee had used its last timeout when the Titans lined up for the play that capped the most exciting Super Bowl finish ever.

The play was called "Sliver Right.'' The Titans had run the play three times in practice from the 10-yard line against the same defense the Rams came out in.

McNair threw the ball to the middle of the field, meaning it was a touchdown or nothing. Dyson ran the route a tad shallow.

"Sometimes in the heat of the moment, you tend to cut things a little short,'' Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel said.

Dyson made the catch, then scooted toward the end zone, but ran into Jones, an ninth-year veteran who has made a living on his solid fundamentals.

Jones wrapped up, the receiver's reach wasn't long enough, and while the Rams soaked in the confetti and the celebration, the Titans rolled around in despair.

"To come this far and be a half-yard short is just a sick feeling,'' Dyson said. "When he got his hands on me, I thought I'd break the tackle. But he slid down to my foot, like you're supposed to, and made a great play. I realized as soon as a I stretched out and was going down, that I didn't get the point of the ball over the goal line.''

It was quite a different scene three weeks ago for Dyson.

He was the player who took the disputed lateral from Frank Wycheck and ran the last-minute kickoff back against Buffalo. That was a play that helped propel the Titans into the Super Bowl.

This time, it was something less spectacular. Just a good, clean tackle from a player who has been making good tackles all his life.

"It was a great throw and catch,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "He got tripped up. The Rams have done that all year and congratulations to them. We have made those kind of plays all year, and this particular play we didn't.''

So, the Titans trudged off knowing they'll be part of the game film that coaches everywhere will use to inspire their players to appreciate the art of tackling.

The Rams will be part of that tape, too — but on the winning end.

"Everybody says this game comes down to fundamentals,'' said co-defensive coordinator Peter Giunta. "It's a simple game. It's blocking and tackling.''

Tackling, to be more precise.

And because Jones made a good one, he was wrapping his arms around a Super Bowl trophy, as well.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times