Overtime field goal lifts Titans

Sunday, January 12, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans didn't need another Music City Miracle -- just a few kicks and a helpful call from the latest NFL officiating crew to make playoff headlines.

After a series of kicks -- some counted, some didn't -- Joe Nedney made a 26-yard field goal 2:15 into overtime that gave the Titans a bruising 34-31 playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

Officiating, in the news all week, once again played a key role in the final outcome.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher sprinted across the field and shouted at referee Ron Blum after the winning kick. As the Titans celebrated, Cowher claimed he called a timeout before the kick.

But the kick stood -- a kick that was the result of a penalty on the previous play by cornerback Dewayne Washington. He drew a 5-yard flag for running into Nedney, giving the kicker yet another chance, and he put the game-winner right down the middle.

That gave the Titans the franchise's first victory in four playoff games against Pittsburgh, and put them into the AFC championship game against the winner of Sunday's game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.

For Pittsburgh and comeback specialist Tommy Maddox, it was yet another playoff failure for a team that was favored to go to the Super Bowl when the season started.

"For a game to be decided on that call is ludicrous," said Cowher, his jaw clenched in anger. "A game can't be decided because a kicker takes two steps and we have someone slide into him. We had some chances to win but we had some taken away from us, too."

That's exactly how the New York Giants felt after losing a playoff game against the 49ers last Sunday. The next day, the NFL admitted officials botched the final play.

Asked about the penalty he called, Blum merely explained the difference between running into the kicker and roughing.

As for the timeout, he said: "I wasn't aware that they were, but one of my co-officials said that the request came after the ball was snapped."

Steelers captain Jason Gildon said he asked umpire Chad Brown for the timeout and was told they didn't have any. Gildon said, "Then I pointed to the scoreboard and we had two left."

At the coin toss before overtime, Blum announced that each team had three timeouts. That's a change from the regular season, when they get two timeouts.

"It's another example of officials just not being at the top of their game," Gildon said. "It's the playoffs, there is a lot at stake. If anyone should be ready, then it should be them."

Steve McNair was 27-of-44 for 338 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another.

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