NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Everyone remembers the “Music City Miracle.”
But arguably the second most memorable playoff win in Titans history happened on this date – January 11, 2003 -- exactly 16 years ago, when the Titans beat the Steelers 34-31 in overtime in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Adelphia Coliseum.
It was referred to as the “Music City Mulligan.”
Here’s a quick trip down memory lane…
The Titans jumped ahead 14-0 in the contest, but lost the lead and trailed 20-14 in the third quarter.
Quarterback Steve McNair led a rally, and the game went to overtime tied at 31-all.
That’s when things got crazy.
After the Titans won the coin toss, McNair guided the Titans to the Pittsburgh 13-yard line, and the Titans won it on a 26-yard field goal by kicker Joe Nedney.
But it was hardly that simple.
Let me explain ...
Nedney's first field goal attempt sailed through uprights, prompting fireworks. But it didn't count because the Steelers had called a timeout.
Nedney missed his next kick, but Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington was called for running into the kicker.
Nedney made the game-winner after that. He’d missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation. The kick sent the Titans to the AFC Championship the following week in Oakland.
Many of the Steelers felt the running into the kicker should not have been called.
"The only thing that matters is the ref took the game from us, plain and simple," Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said after the game. "He should lose his job for that."
“For a game to be decided on that call is ludicrous,” Steelers coach Bill Cowher angrily said afterward.
Nedney reflected on the sequence in an interview with Titans Online a few years ago.
“I remember thinking during the fireworks display (after the first kick), “I’d better make this kick.” I got so excited to kick the game-winning field goal I pulled my head and pulled the ball really bad. It was a horrible kick, one of the worst kicks of my career. I can remember on the follow-through, looking up at the ball and watching it sail wide right and thinking, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe that I just missed,” Nedney said.
“And then Dwayne Washington clipped me. And it was an instinct. It was, “OK, do I stand my ground and be a loser or do I hit the ground and take my team to the AFC Championship Game? I hit the ground and took team to AFC Championship. It’s the playoffs. I did what I could do for my team.”
Nedney’s next kick -- what proved to be the game-winner -- set off a wild celebration, and it sent the Titans to the AFC Championship Game the following week in Oakland.
It also set off a firestorm, especially after Nedney kidded afterward he might take acting lessons after his playing career ended.
“I realized how far-reaching our sport really is when I was involved in that play,’’ Nedney said. “I got hate mail from Steelers fans for a year. The same guy kept writing me letters. The following week in Oakland I hyperextended my knee and I got a letter telling me how horrible I was, and then I got another one telling me it was karma. The following September against the Raiders I tore my ACL in that game and the same guy wrote me another letter telling me “that’s what happens to cheaters.
“… I got invitations to come to Pittsburgh to get my (butt) kicked.”
Joe Nedney's Kick Tops Steelers in AFC Playoffs
Arguably the second most memorable playoff win in Titans history happened on January 11, 2003 when Joe Nedney's field goal defeated the Steelers 34-31 in overtime in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Adelphia Coliseum. (Photos: Donn Jones)