"McNair scrambles a little bit -- I think we pushed him right -- and he throws it back to the left," Vermeil remembered. "But when the ball goes in the air, the offensive linemen all stand up. From where I'm standing on the sideline, I can't see the end of the play. So I swivel back to the side judge and I'm watching for the sign."
Vermeil, anticipating a touchdown or incomplete pass signal, was momentarily baffled when Tom Fincken made neither. That was when he realized the Rams had won.
St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones had brought down receiver Kevin Dyson at the 1-yard line as time ran out. Had the Titans scored and kicked the extra point, the Super Bowl would have seen its first overtime.
"I don't know if you can really feel the full thrill of winning a Super Bowl, unless you've lost one," he said. "The same thing that went into the Eagles going to the Super Bowl -- five years of training camps and practices and games -- is the same thing the Rams did in three years.
"The Eagles actually worked harder and longer, and yet we lost."
The great quarterbacks have uncanny peripheral vision. Joe Montana's was, by all accounts, supernatural. The 49ers were losing Super Bowl XXIII to the Cincinnati Bengals in the dying minutes at Joe Robbie Stadium when Montana made a discovery.
"Standing near the exit ramp," Montana asked his tackle, Harris Barton, "isn't that John Candy?"
Indeed, it was the famous actor. The fact that the 49ers were 92 yards away from a winning touchdown with just more than three minutes remaining, didn't seem to register with the guy they called "Joe Cool." His confidence, his linemen said later, flowed through the entire offense.
Throwing those short, timing passes Bill Walsh's West Coast offense was famous for, Montana drove San Francisco down the field against Cincinnati, employing fullback Roger Craig, wide receiver Jerry Rice and tight end John Frank.
At the time, a quarterback never had driven his team the length of the field to the winning touchdown in the final minute of a Super Bowl, but on this occasion, it happened. Montana, as the 49ers got closer, began to get excited. He screamed so much, he started to hyperventilate.
After an 8-yard pass to Craig brought the ball down to the Cincinnati 10-yard line, the 49ers called timeout with 39 seconds left. Walsh and Montana agreed on the play, 20 Halfback Curl, X Up, a pass to Craig. To that point, Rice had caught 11 passes for a record 215 yards. John Taylor, the other receiver, had none.
Backpedaling, Montana spied Taylor, shaking loose from Cincinnati's linebackers, and delivered a laser into the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 34 seconds left.
The 49ers, who would win 20-16, earned their third Super Bowl title in franchise history. Eventually, there would be five gleaming Lombardi trophies in their case and Montana would retire with a reputation as one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks.
Ozzie Newsome has enjoyed a massive measure of professional success.