Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Rams' top plays: Warner to Bruce
By Nick Wagoner
This is the third of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in St. Louis Rams history. In the past two days, we have featured Ricky Proehl's 30-yard touchdown catch to beat Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game and linebacker Mike Jones' game-saving tackle as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV. Please vote for your choice as the Rams' most memorable play.
Score: Rams 23, Titans 16
Date: Jan. 30, 2000 Site: Georgia Dome
After jumping out to a 16-0 lead, the Rams seemed poised to coast to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. But those hopes were soon dashed as the resilient Titans surged from behind to tie the game at 16 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds to go. The Rams looked tired, and the high-octane offense that had taken the league by storm all season appeared to be running on fumes.
But, as that offense had done all season long, it found the one final burst at just the right moment. With the Rams taking over at their 27-yard line, offensive coordinator Mike Martz had no intention of playing for a field goal. The Rams came out with three receivers lined up to quarterback Kurt Warner's right and one to his left with running back Marshall Faulk in the backfield. The play call was "Twins Right Ace Right 999 H Balloon."
For the uninitiated, those 9's are shorthand for simple go routes, with the receivers attacking the Titans deep down the field. Each receiver to the right found himself in man coverage, with Isaac Bruce on the outside of the hashes, furthest away from safety help against cornerback Denard Walker. At the snap, the Titans rushed four and the Rams line kept the pocket safe, with the notable exception of end Jevon Kearse pushing past right tackle Fred Miller. Kearse closed in on Warner, who released the ball at the last second.
The ball floated down the right sideline. Walker clearly was unaware it had even been thrown, let alone that it was underthrown, but Bruce knew. He made the adjustment to come back for the ball as Walker tried unsuccessfully to catch up to the adjustment. By the time the ball arrived, Bruce had room to run, but other tacklers were gaining ground. Bruce cut inside and raced to the end zone while looking up at the scoreboard to see if anyone was closing in. Instead, he saw left tackle Orlando Pace celebrating and knew he was in the clear.
The 73-yard touchdown gave the Rams a 23-16 lead they would not relinquish on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
While the trio of plays that got the Rams to the Lombardi Trophy all have their special place in history, it's hard to argue against Bruce's touchdown as the most important. Proehl's catch had a higher degree of difficulty, but the Rams could have theoretically still won because they were in field goal range when he made it. And for as great as Jones' tackle was after Bruce's touchdown, if he hadn't made it, the Titans would have been able to only tie the game. Bruce's touchdown provided the definitive winning points in the biggest game in franchise history. As memorable plays go, that is about as good as it gets.