- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. It was only a 26-yard field goal. A chip shot. A gimme.
But it was probably the most dramatic chip-shot field goal in the Tennessee Titans' brief existence and the most frustrating and controversial in the Pittsburgh Steelers' storied history.
The Titans won last night's AFC divisional playoff game over the Steelers 34-31 on Joe Nedney's 26-yarder in overtime. That simple fact, however, can't even begin to put Nedney's game-winner into context.
And although the eventual outcome likely won't be debated much, the sequence of events that led to the outcome almost certainly will.
In a game every bit as wild and frantic as last Sunday's wild card playoffs in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the Titans advanced when Nedney, on his third attempt, connected from 26 yards out with 12:45 showing on the overtime clock.
"I can't put into words how I feel about these players and what they have overcome and where they are right now," said coach Jeff Fisher, whose Titans will play in next Sunday's AFC Championship against the winner of today's Raiders-Jets game in Oakland. "We just expected to win this game. I just didn't know it would come down to that."
The Steelers didn't dispute that Nedney's final kick sailed through the uprights. They did, however, object that Nedney was allowed to make his third attempt.
After a frenetic fourth quarter ended with Nedney missing a 48-yarder wide right, the Titans (12-5) won the overtime coin toss and took the ball. They never gave it back to Pittsburgh (11-6-1).
Following back-to-back completions of 31 and 22 yards from Steve McNair to unheralded Justin McCareins, the Titans sent out the kicking unit on second-and-7 from the 13. Nedney's 31-yarder was good, and a prolonged fireworks display at the Coliseum was set off, assuming a Tennessee victory.
Unfortunately for the Titans, the Steelers had called timeout, forcing Nedney to make another attempt.
His second kick, like the one at the end of regulation, hooked wide right, and suddenly, the Steelers seemed to have new life until they saw the yellow flag thrown by referee Ron Blum, who penalized Dewayne Washington for narrowly clipping Nedney's leg on the kicker's follow-through.
Given yet another chance from 5 yards closer, Nedney drilled his last kick through the uprights (though Pittsburgh again was attempting to call a timeout). The Titans' victory was sealed, and the Steelers had their beef.
"It's obvious: The guy missed the field goal and did a fake acting job," linebacker Joey Porter said. "The play was over."
The strange overtime sequence capped a wildly entertaining game that saw the Steelers rally from an early 14-0 deficit to take a 20-14 lead in the third quarter. The two teams then exchanged blows the rest of the way.
The Titans won despite committing four turnovers leading to 20 Pittsburgh points and losing running back Eddie George to a concussion on the first play of the third quarter.
"With all of the swings of emotion and momentum, this reminded me a lot of the 'Music City Miracle' game," Titans tight end Frank Wycheck said, citing his team's 1999 wild card win over Buffalo.
That was little consolation to Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
"For a game to be decided by that call is ludicrous," said Cowher, who also was livid about an earlier confrontation with Blum in which the referee incorrectly said a play could not be challenged by the Steelers. "And for me to have to explain to an official what's reviewable and what's not that's wrong.
"I'm not going to blame anything on this game. We had opportunities to win this game and we didn't win it. But we had some taken away from us, too."
The game's first three quarters had their share of drama, but the teams saved the best for the final 17 minutes and 15 seconds.
Trailing 28-20 entering the fourth quarter, the Steelers tied the game on a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy Maddox to Hines Ward and a nifty 2-point conversion pass from Ward to Plaxico Burress.
McNair (27 of 44, 338 yards) gave the ball right back to Pittsburgh, tossing his second interception of the game, this one snagged by Deshea Townsend.
Maddox (21 of 41, 266 yards) set Jeff Reed up for a 40-yard field goal attempt, and the rookie kicker connected to put the Steelers ahead 31-28 with 8:30 to play.
McNair then orchestrated a drive to set up a 42-yarder by Nedney that tied it again with 5:40 to play.
Both teams had chances to win before the end of regulation, but the Steelers' stalled at the Tennessee 40, and Nedney misfired from 48 yards out as time expired.

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