Fifteen years ago Friday, one of the biggest upsets in postseason history came oh-so-close to being sprung.
The Buccaneers, 14.5-point underdogs, gave the Rams all they could handle in the 1999 NFC Championship, but they fell just short in an 11-6 loss in St. Louis.
The Buccaneers picked off Rams quarterback Kurt Warner three times. They shut down the St. Louis running game, limiting Marshall Faulk to just 44 yards on 17 carries. But St. Louis managed the game’s only touchdown — a Warner-to-Ricky Proehl 30-yard strike with 4:44 left — and that was the decisive blow. The Bucs put together one final promising drive that reached the St. Louis 22, but the Rams pushed them back, got a favorable call on a potential Bert Emanuel catch and held on for the win.
There was an upset in the other conference-title game, too, though it might not have seemed like it. For the third time in the ’99 season, the Titans knocked off the Jaguars, pulling away to a 33-14 victory in Jacksonville to capture the AFC crown.
A seven-point underdog, Tennessee seized control with 16 points in a 4:28 span in the third quarter. Then, the Titans put the game away in the fourth quarter, with Steve McNair’s 51-yard run setting up the quarterback’s one-yard score one play later.
Ultimately, Tennessee was the only club to defeat Jacksonville all season, with the Jaguars going 15-0 against all other competition.
The Titans and Rams would meet a week later in Super Bowl XXXIV, and it was a classic, with St. Louis stopping Tennessee in the shadow of the endzone as time expired in a 23-16 Rams win.