by Zachary Levin
There were two minutes left in Superbowl XXXIV (January 30, 2000), the game was tied, and the St. Louis Rams had the ball on their 27-yard line. Head coach Dick Vermeil liked what he saw. "Couldn't ask for a better script!" he shouted, rallying his team. Vermeil might as well have been speaking of the Rams' year, which unfolded more like a movie than a football season.
Six months earlier, no one was picking the Rams to be in this situation. Vermeil's team had gone 4-12 the year before. Their quarterback, Kurt Warner, had been out of football and bagging groceries two years earlier. Vermeil was 63 and had returned to the National Football League in 1997, after a 15-year hiatus from coaching. At best, the Rams were in rebuilding mode, right?
Wrong. Led by Warner, who won the league MVP, they scorched the NFL and faced the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl. After a shaky start, Warner finished the first half with 277 passing yards and the Rams led 9-0. Tennessee's offense finally came to life late, and with 2:12 to play, the score was 16-16.
Warner made Vermeil's sideline rallying cry sound truly prophetic when, a play later, he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaac Bruce. The throw gave Warner 414 passing yards, a Super Bowl record, but left time on the clock for Tennessee. Titans quarterback Steve McNair used that time well and, with five seconds left, Tennessee lined up on the Rams' 10-yard line. McNair completed a pass to receiver Kevin Dyson, who was running a slant pattern toward the end zone. But Rams linebacker Mike Jones hit Dyson at the goal line, tackling him inches short of a score. Final score: 23-16. The Rams' Hollywood season had its Hollywood ending.