The “Music City Miracle” is a play that will live in infamy in Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills had kicked a go-ahead field goal late in a Wild Card playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. Then, depending on your perspective, the Bills were robbed by the refs or Tennessee had the greatest legal kick return in NFL history.
In his new book, Son of Bum, Wade Phillips described what happened in those fateful moments. Then the head coach of the Bills, Phillips lays the blame squarely at one of his assistant coach’s feet.
“Bruce DeHaven, our special-teams coach who had been with the Bills a long time, came up to me and said, ‘You want to kick it deep?’”
After Phillips answered in the affirmative, DeHaven asked another question.
“Why don’t we bloop kick it?”
Phillips explains what a bloop kick is in great detail:
“A bloop kick is higher and shorter than a regular kickoff, and you do it to take more time off the clock than kicking it through the end zone and putting the other team on the 20-yard line (which now has been moved to the 25).”
With 16 seconds left on the clock, the Titans could have knelt a touchback and taken no time off the clock. A bloop kick runs off time as soon as a player touches it from the return team, which guarantees some time comes off the clock.
“Now I thought he was going to have Steve [Christie] bloop it outside the numbers, where you’d have them pinned as far as the coverage could prevent the returner from going up the field or toward the middle,” Phillips continued. “Even if the ball goes out of bounds, and you get a penalty that gives the other team good field position, so what? They would still have only sixteen seconds to score.”
That last sentence doesn’t mean a whole lot because you could say the same thing about kicking a touchback, and then they start on the 20 instead of the 40.
“But what we did was completely the opposite, because we blooped it down the middle. Lorenzo Neal caught Steve’s kick and handed off to Frank Wycheck, who threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson who ran down the sidelines 75 yards for a touchdown. The officials said it was a legal lateral, but I was standing right across from where Wycheck threw the ball and I know it was an illegal forward pass.”
Even after the score, Phillips felt confident because the replay review was coming. He had his prevent defense on the field ready for Tennessee’s final offensive play following the penalty for illegal forward pass.
“When the official came back and said, ‘The ruling on the field stands,’ I just lost it. I took off my headset and threw it on the ground. All the air just went out of me.”
Buffalo's last ditch effort for a kick return of their own failed, the Bills lost 22 to 16 and haven't been to the playoffs since.