Music City Miracle: Titans stun Bills on amazing kick return

Titans see finish as 'poetic justice'

Bills (11-5) at Titans (13-3)

Some in Houston cheer Titans
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Much like a scarlet letter, Kim Berry carries the sign of the Houston Oilers derrick on her left ankle, an indelible mark of a suffering fan if there ever was one.

The rabid fans at Adelphia Coliseum weren't the only ones cheering the Titans on Saturday. A few loyal folks in Houston were, too.
Loyal as Berry might be, she and a small but merry band of Titans fans gathered at Griff's bar Saturday afternoon saw the writing on the wall when the Buffalo Bills took a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds left in an AFC wild-card game at Tennessee.

"I'll admit, I buried my head," Berry said. "I thought it was over."

New name. New uniforms. Same old Oilers.

After all, these fans vividly recall their team executing the most spectacular choke in NFL history seven years ago against these Bills, blowing a 35-3 third-quarter lead and losing 41-38 in overtime.

Yet as Berry's derrick tattoo shows, she is a die-hard fan. And lo and behold, the franchise that has broken her heart so many times pulled one out for a change when Kevin Dyson took a disputed cross-field lateral on a kickoff return 75 yards for a touchdown and 22-16 victory.

"I'm starting to feel better about it," she said of what went down as "The Choke" in these parts. "I can talk about it now."

For that matter, other Oilers' postseason woes suddenly weren't quite as painful, such as the blown call on Mike Renfro's touchdown in the 1979 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh, John Elway's last-minute drive to win a 1991 divisional playoff or Joe Montana's fourth-quarter game-winner to send the Chiefs past Houston in 1994.

Most former Oilers backers seem to have taken their loyalty elsewhere or are willing to wait until the NFL returns in 2002. While Houston largely yawned at the Titans' victory Saturday, Berry and her bunch at Griff's were bouncing off the walls.

She believes more recovered Oilers fans will join the Titans bandwagon as the playoffs wear on, putting aside their anger at owner Bud Adams for uprooting the franchise in 1997.

"What they don't understand was, Bud Adams was a smart businessman," Berry said. "I hope they win, and I hope all the people who hated Bud Adams will eat their words."

Berry is noncommittal about her loyalties when play resumes here. Pal Jason Swanson, a longtime Oilers/Titans backer who bears the additional yoke of being a Red Sox fan, said he's "Houston, Texas, all the way."

"I'll definitely root for the Houston team," said Swanson, wearing a Jevon Kearse jersey. "But there's no reason the Titans can't be No. 2."

The whole group said they'll be back at Griff's for the divisional round game next week, whether the rest of Houston joins in their glee or not.