With quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George leading the way, Tennessee comes back from a big deficit but comes up short.
The NFL's best running back tandem resides in Tennessee.
They may be masquerading as a quarterback and a running back, but Titans quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George are a rushing roulette that usually comes up a winner.
Super Bowl XXXIV saw both ball carriers showcase their wares, with McNair setting a record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 64 on eight carries, and George adding two rushing touchdowns and 95 yards.
The combination almost was enough to help the Titans pull out a victory, but St. Louis came away with a 23-16 win. All McNair and George could walk away with was the hope they could return to this game another day.
"I'm still emotionally involved in the game and it's kind of shocking," George said. "But I can go and learn from it. I'm going to take the best out of this. We have something to build on for this organization and we have an opportunity for next year."
Faith was a key word for both players, because Titans coach Jeff Fisher never gave up on McNair during an inconsistent season, and he never gave up on George even though the Rams shut him down in the first half.
The Titans kept going to George, even when they fell behind 16-0. He picked up 45 yards on 10 carries in the third quarter and scored Tennessee's first touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he added 32 yards and another touchdown to narrow the Rams' lead to 16-13.
"That's how Eddie's played this year," Fisher said. "Eddie wanted to carry the load."
McNair's contributions were just as critical. He completed 6-of-7 in the third quarter for 39 yards to rally the Titans.
During the season he was sidelined with a back injury, and backup Neil O'Donnell played well in his absence. So well some were calling for McNair to be benched.
But Fisher stuck with McNair, and eventually his running proved to be the perfect antidote for a Jacksonville team Tennessee beat three times, including last week's AFC Championship Game.
"Steve's a warrior. He puts it on the line every game," George said. "He tries to find ways to win. I'm very proud of him."
With George and McNair making big plays, Tennessee eventually tied the score at 16 before falling behind with 1:54 remaining.
It looked bleak when McNair was forced to scramble on a third and 5 with 22 seconds remaining, but he broke away from a rush by Rams defensive ends Kevin Carter and Jay Williams, reversed field and then hit Kevin Dyson with a 16-yard pass that gave the Titans first and goal from the Rams 10 with six seconds left.
"Steve had a great year," Fisher said. "He led this team to the Super Bowl along with the rest of his teammates. I believe you saw the real Steve McNair tonight. He did what we asked him to do.
"He left it on the field. That is what I told him. I told him, "We will be back. Don't ever forget this moment, because we will be back,' because he has that heart of a champion."
On the next play, it was decided McNair would go to Dyson, who the Titans guessed would be matched against linebacker Mike Jones. They wanted to get the ball to him while he was in stride. McNair threw a perfect pass on an 8-yard slant, but Jones stopped Dyson just short of the goal line.
"The decision was made," McNair said. "Get the ball to the receiver. It was a mismatch that favored us, but with the great linebackers they have, you've got to make plays. It was just who was going to make the play, and they did it today."
Said Fisher: "We did everything we could to give ourselves a chance to win. We went for two, we went for it on fourth down. We got within six inches of having an opportunity."
But without McNair and George, the Titans would never have had a chance to tie it.