If you knew an older Bills fan, you likely saw them have a PSTD flashback after “13 seconds”. We all know 13 seconds as it just happened two seasons ago and was maybe one of the greatest playoff finishes of all time, but for the zoomers who might be reading this and have only heard about the lore, it’s happened before. It was arguably even worse then.

The year is 2000, at the end of the 1999 NFL season. It is the wildcard round. The Bills were the 5th seed and had the #1 defense in the league, and were coached by everyone’s current favorite football grandpa Wade Phillips. The Bills had made the playoffs 8 times in the past decade and were still looking for that Super Bowl win. The Titans were Nashville fresh, this being their third year in Nashville and the first under the new name.  Despite being a devastating 13-3, the Tits were actually the 4th seed as they had lost the AFC Central to the 14-2 Jaguars. As far as wildcard matchups go, this was pretty good!

It was not the most enjoyable watch if you like offense. The first score of the game was a safety on the Bills. At halftime the Bills were in a 12-0 hole. Things looked bleak. Then things turned around and the Bills scored 13 unanswered points to go ahead. The Titans got the ball with 6 minutes left, managed to squeak into field goal range and score the go-ahead kick with 1:48 to go, setting the stage for what should have been the big heroic 2-minute drill by the Bills. They nailed a 41-yarder to go up 16-15 with 16 seconds left. Setup complete.

What’s 16 seconds? Kickoff would probably take anywhere from 4-10 seconds off the clock and the Bills were going to kick it a bit short to prevent a touchback. If the Titans got lucky on the runback they might have enough time for what, possibly two plays? Chances of victory are so slim in these moments and 99% of the time, you are already drinking the celebratory beer here anticipating the victory.

This happened instead. In a funny twist of fate, the Music City Miracle took 13 seconds. Although it took a while to confirm it as a lateral, which it is. Barely. It might be the slightest lateral in history, and only one camera angle really shows it (2:39 in this video is the angle). The game camera makes it look like a forward pass, but when you Zapruder the shit out of it with the best angle, you see the ball leaves Wycheck’s hands in an extended sidearm flick beyond the line, and Dyson has to lean a ways inward to actually catch the ball, just barely closer to the line then where it left. If Wycheck throws the ball normally instead of using that desperate sidearm flick, this play ends with the Bills winning. It’s so close, but the call was correct. Sorry Bills fans, it’s a lateral.

The legacy of this game is more than just the lunatic ending. This game would curse the Bills and send them into a 17-year playoff drought which finally ended when Andy Dalton beat the Ravens to allow the Bills to back into the playoffs in 2017. It was the longest active playoff drought for the time. If a Bills fan was born the very next day, they would almost have been old enough to vote by the time they experienced a Bills playoff game. They would have been able to drink by the time the Bills would finally win their next playoff game in 2021.

The Titans side of the story is more interesting. This is the Titans team that would eventually reach the Super Bowl and lose in the famous One Yard Short game. The Titans that season were notable for being the Jaguars Achilles heel, due to what some Jags fans believe was a stolen playbook. This has never been confirmed and lives in Jaguars lore as one of the reasons Jacksonville hates Tennessee to this day. It is very plausible the Jaguars are Super Bowl champions if the Music City Miracle never happens as literally no other team beat the Jaguars in the entire year, and they sent Dan Marino into retirement with a vengeance.

Maybe that should be the next subject of a Lateral, actually.