TSN Archives: Kevin Dyson, Mike Jones meet again to discuss ‘The Sort out’ in Titans-Rams Super Bowl


EDITOR’S NOTE: No nationwide publication has a richer sports activities historical past than that of The Sporting Information, which was based in 1886. The next content material appeared in the July 3, 2000 situation of The Sporting Information journal.

On the final play of Super Bowl 34 in Atlanta, Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopped Titans large receiver Kevin Dyson in need of the objective line on the final play of the sport, sealing a 23-16 victory for St. Louis. The play that has grow to be often known as “The Sort out” is among the many most well-known in Super Bowl historical past. Months after the sport, Dyson agreed to let Sporting Information fly him to St. Louis for a sit-down with Jones to watch and discuss the play.

Authentic publish date: July 3, 2000

They Meet Again

By Dennis Dillon

(SN Archives)

Shhhh. Come on in and have a seat. Sorry the sunshine is dim, however your eyes will regulate.

See these two guys sitting in the entrance row? The one on the (proper), his hair in braids, is Kevin Dyson, the large receiver for the Tennessee Titans. The opposite one, with the freshly shaved head, is Mike Jones, the St. Louis Rams’ linebacker. That is proper, the 2 gamers who gave us probably the most implausible end in Super Bowl historical past.

They’re right here, in this assembly room at Rams Park, to dissect and discuss the tie that can ceaselessly bind them — the ultimate play in Super Bowl 34. A Play so momentous in its consequence, but so elementary in its execution that it’s identified by a easy appellation. The Sort out.

That is it frozen on the projection display. Bear in mind the state of affairs? Rams main, 23-16 … Titans’ ball … first down on the Rams’ 10-yard line … six seconds left … no timeouts.

It is mid-Could, Three half months because the Super Bowl, however this might be solely the second time Dyson has watched the play. The primary time was the day after the sport, when the Titans returned to Nashville from Atlanta. Dyson secluded himself contained in the workplace of receivers coach Steve Walters and regarded for what — if something — he might have performed otherwise. He has a TV videotape of the Super Bowl, however the final six seconds may as nicely be clean. He merely has been unable to carry himself to watch them. When the Titans premiered their 1999 spotlight movie at their coaching facility and the ultimate play of the sport appeared on the display, Dyson could not bear to look. Sitting there in the darkish, on the aisle main up to the second tier of seats in the room, he lowered his head.

However Dyson agreed to let Sporting Information fly him to St. Louis to sit down with Jones and study the play. “I wished to hear what he had to say about it,” Dyson says. “If it was simply me. I most likely would not have actually wished to watch it.”

It appears as if everybody has wished to watch the play with Jones. Within the week after the Super Bowl, he went on a whirlwind journey to New York the place he appeared on Regis & Kathie Lee (“They weren’t very personable”), Charlie Rose (“He is an amazing interviewer”) and HBO’s Contained in the NFL. One in all Jones’ fondest moments was when the College of Missouri, his alma mater, saluted him throughout its closing dwelling basketball recreation March 1. He was invited to stroll to heart courtroom and wave to the gang, which gave him an ovation befitting a Super Bowl hero.

“That was candy. I used to be ready to get the monkey off my again,” says Jones, a group captain in 1990, when the Tigers misplaced to Colorado in the notorious “Fifth Down” recreation.

The Super Bowl has bereft of suspense all too usually, however Jones and Dyson collaborated to produce the final word climax January 30 in the Georgia Dome. Now they’ve convened to replay it — again and again and again. Six seconds of motion. Sixty minutes of scrutiny. Let’s go to the tape.

Tennessee, you may recall, had the ball for 13 minutes, 14 seconds in the fourth quarter and ran 32 performs to St. Louis’ 6 in that interval. The Rams’ protection was exhausted. Finish Kevin Carter and deal with D’Marco Farr took themselves out of the sport for one play with 28 seconds left, inflicting coach Dick Vermeil to clutch his head incredulously. When Dyson regarded over to the Rams’ sideline and noticed somebody pouring water on Carter, he smiled to himself.

Dyson, who had just one reception for 9 yards in the sport’s first 58 minutes, caught three passes for 32 yards on the Titans’ game-ending possession. On the next-to-last play, quarterback Steve McNair scrambled, extremely escaped a sack try by Carter and Jay Williams — who dived at his ft concurrently — and accomplished a 16-yard go to Dyson. Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon stopped Dyson on the 10 and tried to maintain him up, however Dyson neatly went down, and the Titans known as their final timeout.

As McNair got here to the sideline, coach Jeff Fisher conferred with offensive coordinator Les Steckel, who was up in the coaches’ sales space. The Titans had been in their “gotta win” collection of performs, and Steckel known as a mouthful: “Gun spear proper open zag agency silver proper Detroit.” In easy phrases, it was a shotgun formation with two receivers to either side. Dyson and tight finish Frank Wycheck had been to line up on the appropriate facet. “Open” meant that Wycheck can be cut up out, away from the appropriate deal with; Dyson was to line up outdoors of Wycheck and barely behind the road. “Silver” known as for Dyson to run a slant sample and Wycheck to run a vertical route.

The Rams went with a nickel protection and introduced in a contemporary pair of legs at proper finish. They changed Grant Wistrom with linebacker Leonard Little, hoping to get a velocity rush on McNair’s blindside. Jones, McCleon and security Billy Jenkins positioned themselves on the Wycheck-Dyson facet in a triangular alignment, every man representing a nook. Jones lined up on the 7, inside Wycheck; McCleon straddled the 5 on the surface of Dysonl and Jenkins stood behind them on the 2.

“Within the huddle, I do not assume anyone had any doubt in their thoughts that we had been going to rating,” Dyson says. “We had been doing that every one yr lengthy — getting in shut video games and pulling them out.”

Jones presses the play button on the distant swap and the play comes to life on display. Dyson begins in movement, taking 5 steps towards the within. Now he stops, pivots and comes again outdoors to his authentic spot. The Titans put Dyson in movement to preserve him from getting jammed on the line and camouflage the place he was going. Because the ball is snapped, Wycheck runs straight up the seam towards the tip zone. Jones turns to his left and drops again with him.

“I am you proper now,” Dyson says to Jones. “As quickly as I noticed you flip your hips and take Wycheck, that is after I got here. I believed you had been following Wycheck and I might creep in there.”

“Proper,” says Jones. “I did not assume you noticed me down there. I slid again with Wycheck as a result of I did not need him coming behind me, however I nonetheless had my imaginative and prescient on you. You may not assume I am you, however I am you the entire time.”

However that is rather more complicated than a recreation of peekaboo. Return to the beginning of the play. One of many key elements for the Rams is the pre-snap communication amongst Jenkins, Jones and McCleon.

Jenkins initially calls out “Trio!” — a 3-on-2 protection, which suggests Jones is liable for the primary receiver, Wycheck or Dyson, who breaks inside; McCleon is to take the primary receiver who breaks outdoors, and Jenkins will again them up. When Jones turns his head to the left to relay the Trio name again to Jenkins, Dyson goes in movement inside. Jenkins strikes throughout the sector with Dyson yelling, “Connie!” Now the protection has been modified. Jenkins and Jones will double-team Dyson — Jenkins taking the within, Jones the surface — and McCleon will go one-on-one with Wycheck. Jones turns and appears over his proper shoulder to give that decision again to Jenkins. Simply when he does that, Dyson reverses his subject and goes again outdoors.

“For those who guys had snapped the ball proper there, we’re in massive hassle,” Jones says. “We had been sort of in a Catch-22 right here.” However as Dyson returns to his authentic spot, Jenkins yells, “Trio!” again. Three protection calls and the ball hasn’t even been snapped.

As Wycheck goes upfield, Dyson strikes into the realm vacated by the tight finish, swinging simply barely to the surface. On the 7, he slants inside. He does not make a pointy reduce; the break is extra like a crescent sample. This catches Dyson’s consideration as he watches the movie.

“Taking a look at this again, if I had come flatter, I may need been ready to outrun you to the tip zone,” he tells Jones. “No one else goes to make this play however you. So perhaps if I had come flat extra across the 5-yard line and tried to outrun you … .”

MORE: Where 1999 Rams rank among all-time Super Bowl winners

As he breaks inside on the 7, Dyson turns his head again and appears for McNair’s go. He snares it simply as he crosses the 5. “It was an ideal ball — in the abdomen, low, in entrance of me,” Dyson says.

Simply as Dyson cuts inside, McCleon factors animatedly towards him along with his left arm. He’s yelling, “In! In! In!” to Jones who already is aware of the go is coming to Dyson. He drops off Wycheck.

“I might see your eyes getting larger,” Jones tells Dyson. “You possibly can inform when a receiver is about to get a ball. They have to look again, flip their head, then they have to get their fingers prepared to catch the ball.”

Except he’s taking a receiver one-on-one, Jones says, he’s supposed to keep out of the tip zone in protection. The objective line is his boundary line. Jones follows Wycheck to the three, then passes him off to Jenkins, who’s in the tip zone.

“If Wycheck had taken me just a bit bit wider, then you definitely and I might have had a footrace,” Jones says. “Since you would have had extra space to run, and I might have had extra space to cowl.” 

When Jones sees Dyson look again for the ball, he stops, turns his hips again inside and offers chase. No different Rams participant is in place to cease Dyson from getting to the tip zone. All that hangs in the stability is the end result of the Super Bowl.

Pause the tape for a second. Let’s discover out extra about Dyson and Jones, and the way they reached this important soccer intersection.

Dyson, 25, a record-setting receiver on the College of Utah, was the 16th participant chosen in the 1998 draft — the one receiver taken forward of Randy Moss. The Titans, like lots of their NFL brethren, believed Moss’ off-field issues made him an excessive amount of of a danger. They preferred the 6-1 Dyson’s dimension/velocity mixture; their 40-yard sprint time on Dyson (4.39) was truly two-hundredths of a second sooner than what that they had on Moss.

After a mediocre rookie season in which he caught 21 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns, Dyson was the Titans’ second-leading receiver (behind Wycheck) final season, with 54 receptions for 658 yards and 4 TDs.

Nevertheless it was as a particular groups fill-in that he reached an apotheosis for the franchise previously often known as the Houston Oilers. Dyson wasn’t even supposed to be on the sector when the Titans’ kick-return group lined up with solely 16 seconds left and Tennessee trailing Buffalo, 16-15, in a wild-card playoff recreation final January 8. However two different members of the return group had been injured, so Dyson was drafted. Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick and pitched the ball again to Wycheck, who threw a cross-field lateral (it was dangerously shut to an unlawful ahead go) to Dyson. The Titans name the play “House Run Throwback.” Seventy-five yards later, Dyson was in the tip zone, his landing ceaselessly to be often known as the “Music Metropolis Miracle.”

“It was most likely the best factor in my sports activities life,” Dyson says. Simply 22 days later, he would expertise the nadir.

However Dyson has been elegant in the wake of the ultimate Super Bowl play. He even has been gracious sufficient to autograph photos that present him mendacity on the sector, the ball in his outstretched arm in need of the objective line. Earlier than coaching camp, he’ll fly to Mount Laurel, N.J., to movie a phase for NFL Movies. It is going to be a spoof on the HBO collection, The Sopranos , in which Dyson will search a health care provider’s assist.

“I’m going to see a psychiatrist due to this play. I can not attain the pepper. I can not attain my alarm clock. … I most likely want to see one for actual,” he says, laughing. “No, I am simply kidding. I am nice. I actually am nice.”

(Getty Photos)

Jones made an not noticeable entrance into the NFL. He was not among the many 334 gamers drafted in 1991, when the choice course of was 12 rounds. He performed operating again and fullback at Missouri, and his agent wished him to signal a free-agent contract with the Broncos. However the Raiders signed him and switched him to linebacker on the urging of Mike Ward, who had been Jones’ operating backs coach at Missouri. When the Raiders despatched out an analysis kind throughout Jones’ senior season, Ward stuffed it out — with a 1 half web page, hand-written letter to Raiders proprietor Al Davis as an addendum. Ward was satisfied that Jones might play linebacker in the NFL. In truth, Ward and defensive coordinator Mike Curch had lobbied to swap Jones to linebacker at Missouri, however head coach Bob Stull squelched the thought.

“I knew he wasn’t going to get drafted as a operating again in the NFL,” Ward remembers. “His velocity was 4.6 to 4.7. He ran a little bit bit upright, a little bit vertical for a operating again, and that is not good. He had common dimension. He did not match the mould of what they had been on the lookout for at fullback. What satisfied me that he can be a linebacker in the NFL, and even in school, was his means to open up his hips and run. A variety of guys are stiff; this man was easy and fluid. And the best way he might speed up in and out of breaks … in different phrases cease and go, And, then, cerebrally talking, he was unimaginable. I knew he might learn formations. I knew he might learn tendencies.”

Jones progressively ascended from particular groups participant to nickel linebacker to starter with the Raiders. He grew to become a free agent after the ’96 season, however a number of the Rams’ coaches had been reluctant to carry him to St. Louis as a result of they wanted a strongside linebacker who might cowl the tight finish and rush the passer. Jones had carried out neither position with the Raiders.

Via dedication on the observe subject, in movie examine and in the burden room, Jones, 31, developed into the participant the Rams wanted. He grew to become an iron man who was irreplaceable. He performed in 1,045 of 1,047 defensive snaps in ’97 and all 1,004 performs in ’98. Final season, he intercepted 4 passes (returning two for touchdowns), recovered two fumbles (considered one of which he was a TD), made one sack, defensed 13 passes, produced 11 quarterback pressures and was third on the group in tackles. For the third consecutive yr, he was voted by his teammates as winner of the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Sport Award, named for a former Rams linebacker and given to the participant who greatest exemplifies sportsmanship, work ethic and dedication to his teammates.

“Mike is somebody everybody ought to sample their profession round,” says Rams free security Keith Lyle. “He works exhausting, he research. He does all the mandatory issues to put together himself for Sunday.”

(Getty Photos)

Jones, Carter and cornerback Todd ​Lyght often play on the left facet of the Ram’s protection they usually at all times have a rallying cry. In the course of the Super Bowl they determined the considered one of them had to make the massive play of the sport. Within the second quarter, Carter sacked McNair for a 6-yard loss. Early in the third quarter, Lyght blocked a field-goal try. Standing on the sideline earlier than the ultimate collection of the sport, Jones jokingly instructed Carter that it was his flip to make a play of magnitude.

Like the opposite Rams defensive gamers, Jones was drained. And his ankle “was killing me.” A Titans lineman had unintentionally stepped on Jones’ ankle halfway via the fourth quarter. However Jones by no means left the sector. And now got here the ultimate, pivotal second.

As Dyson catches McNair’s go, about Three yards separate him and Jones, who closes the hole shortly. Dyson does not even take two full strides earlier than Jones lunges at him. Stretched out virtually horizontally, his proper foot off the bottom, Jones reaches out along with his proper arm and grabs Dyson’s proper leg just under the hip.

“Once I reached out and grabbed you,” Jones says, “you are going a method and I am going one other. I knew I bought a great wrap on you initially with my proper arm. I strive to carry my left arm round and your momentum swings me all the best way round.”

In bodily phrases, it’s very similar to a centripetal power, the power tending to pull a rotating object towards the middle of rotation. Dr. Ian Redmount, a physicist at St. Louis College who watched the Super Bowl and remembers the play, estimates it required the 202-pound Dyson to exert a power of almost 300 kilos to swing the 240-pound Jones.

When he’s swung round, Jones clamps his left hand on Dyson’s left leg, simply above the knee. It may simply as nicely be a metal entice. Dyson’s leg his snared, his ahead progress stopped. As if that is not sufficient, Jones falls on the again of the leg.

“If you first hit me, I believed I might run via the arm,” Dyson says. “I am considering, ‘If I can get via this … ‘ Then rapidly my ft stopped.”

“You are in if you will get that left leg up since you’re going to fall ahead,” Jones says.

“That is what I wanted — yet one more step,” Dyson says. “I could not get that left leg transferring.”

“Once I tackled you, I knew you had been already down as a result of I had my hand in your leg,” Jones says. “I used to be at in regards to the 3-yard line and I knew you were not 7 ft tall.”

Dyson chuckles at this comment.

(Getty Photos)

As Dyson goes down, he rolls over on his left facet and, whereas mendacity on his again, tries to stretch the ball throughout the objective line along with his proper arm. Too brief. Lyle comes over from the opposite facet of the filed and tries to knock the ball out of Dyson’s hand, however Dyson pulls it again. Dyson rolls over on his abdomen, switches the ball to his left hand and stretches it throughout the objective line. Too late. His knee already has touched the bottom.

For a second, there’s an eerie silence on the sector as gamers and coaches from each groups anticipate a sign. Subject choose Al Jury comes operating in from the appropriate facet and factors to the bottom, indicating the ball was in need of the objective line when Dyson’s knee went down.

The one factor Dyson can do is hope for a miracle. A penalty flag? A evaluate of the play? A malfunction in the clock? Within the final scene of the videotape, Dyson, nonetheless on his abdomen, appears up on the clock. He watches it go from 0:01 to 0:00.

“I rise up and I do not know the place you went,” Jones says to Dyson. “I bought hugged by deal with Jeff Zgonina and the following factor I knew there’s all this confetti coming down and all these folks speeding on the sector to get these platforms up for the trophy presentation. It was loopy.”

“After the sport, someone mentioned it was an ideal deal with,” Dyson says. “I mentioned on an ideal deal with, you’d have squared up and hit me so exhausting.”

“It is humorous,” Jones says, “as a result of the angle I make the deal with at … if I strive to run via you, you’d most likely ricochet off me.”

“The center of the sector was so open,” Dyson says. “For those who weren’t there, I might have walked into the tip zone … Even after I was taking place, it appeared like that finish zone was so shut.”

“It was,” says Jones, laughing. Dyson laughs too. However with a bit much less gusto.

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