From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 18, 2000

This past weekend’s NFL playoff games were like a 20-screen movie theater – they had something for everyone.

You like big plays? The weekend was full of them. It started Saturdaymorning with Fred Taylor’s 90-yard touchdown run, the longest in playoff history, in Jacksonville’s victory over Miami. It continued that afternoonwith Washington’s Brian Mitchell taking the second half kickoff against Tampa bay and returning it 100 yards, the longest kickoff return in playoff history.

Sunday, there was Isaac Bruce’s 77-yard touchdown reception on St. Louis’first play from scrimmage against Minnesota. Tony Horne started a 35-point second half for the Rams by returning the second half kickoff 95 yards for a score. Tennessee’s Eddie George capped the weekend byscampering 68 yards for the deciding touchdown in the Titans’ victory at Indianapolis.

You want games decided in the final minutes? Washington-Tampa Bay and Tennessee-Indianapolis certainly fit that bill. The Buccaneers went aheadwith 7:29 left on a touchdown pass by Shaun King and held on as Brett Conway’s 51-yard field goal attempt with 1:17 left went awry on a bad snap. Tennessee’s 19-16 victory wasn’t assured until Yancey Thigpenrecovered an on-sides kick with 1:57 left.

Or maybe you are more a fan of blowouts? Then Miami-Jacksonville was the game for you. Jacksonville jumped ahead 24-0 in the first quarter andnever looked back, rolling to a 62-7 victory. That was the second largestmargin of victory ever in a playoff game, capped only by Chicago’s infamous 73-0 victory over Washington in the 1940 title game.

Offensive explosions? Just look at Jacksonville which rolled up 520 yards in offense. Or watch the replay of the Rams-Vikings game. Those twoteams accounted for 881 yards in offense, 86 points and nine touchdown passes. St. Louis was held to 31 yards rushing and still scored 49 points. You want outstanding individual performances? How about St. Louis’ KurtWarner who completed 27 of his 33 passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns, second most in playoff history? Or Minnesota’s Jeff George who finished with 29 completions in 50 attempts for 424 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, there was Tennessee’s George who rushed for162 yards on 26 carries. And Jacksonville’s Taylor who had 135 yards on18 carries.

Controversial plays? For the second straight week, Tennessee was involved in the week’s most controversial call. Indianapolis’ TerranceWilkins returned a fourth-quarter punt 87 yards to the Tennessee 3 in a 16-9 game. But replays showed Wilkins stepped out at the Colts’ 33 andthe call was reversed.

You like unusual plays? There may not have been any play more unusual (and certainly few that lasted as long) as Jacksonville defensive end Tony Brackens’ 16-yard dance (literally) into the end zone with a fumble return in the first quarter Saturday.

So now we are left with a final four that looked improbable before the season started. Jacksonville might have been predicted to go this far andthere were a few who might have gone out on a limb and gave Tampa Bay a chance. But St. Louis and Tennessee? That was a scenario that Hollywoodmight not even have touched. But, hey, on “Any Given Sunday”…

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