Indianapolis Colts versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers: October 6th, 2003 (Monday Night Football)
With Tom Tupa retreating to the sideline with fewer than seven minutes left in regulation, the Colts had a nearly impossible task laid out for them. Peyton Manning trotted onto the field needing a pair of touchdown drives against the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With time at a premium, the electric Colts offense had a penalty, a sack, and a meaningless completion until Manning threw a touchdown to Ronde Barber of the Bucs. The pick six increased the score to Bucs 35, Colts 14.
Now down 21 and with the clock bleeding, returner Brad Pyatt reeled off a glorious 90-yard run back, setting the Colts up for a touchdown four plays later. Bucs 35, Colts 21.
The oft-maligned Mike Vanderjagt then converted an onside kick, setting up the future 2003 co-MVP Manning 58 yards from paydirt. Manning connected on three consecutive passes before misfiring on a third and six. Facing fourth and six with an undefeated record on the line, Manning hit Marvin Harrison for a 28-yard touchdown strike. Bucs 35, Colts 28.
Vanderjagt failed to work his onside magic, but the Colts managed to force a three-and-out, leaving Manning with 1:41 and 85 yards to coax a miracle out of the Tampa air. Manning hit Troy Walters for a first down, but a roughing the passer penalty on Warren Sapp resulted in a total gain of 27 yards. Manning and Harrison then struck for 52 yards, leaving the Colts six yards from the end zone. Two plays later, Ricky Williams crossed the goal line, and Vanderjagt tied the game. Bucs 35, Colts 35.
The Bucs had one chance to end the game, but the resulting Martin Gramatica 60-yard field goal found the hands of Colt Larry Tripplett, propelling the game into overtime. On the first possession of overtime, Brad Johnson and the Bucs moved the ball into Colts territory after the benefit of a fourth-down penalty by Indianapolis. After a pair of Keenan McCardell targets hit the grass, Tupa pinned the Colts inside their 15.
87 yards from completing a miraculous comeback, Manning misfired on a pass to Williams before connecting on a trio of third-downs to pass the Colts into Tampa territory. Facing a second-and-10, Manning let Reggie Wayne into space, pushing the Colts into field goal range. After three James Mungro carries, Vanderjagt calmly walked onto the field and missed the game-winning kick. Seconds later, Buccaneer special teamer Simeon Rice incurred an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of 11 yards, allowing Vanderjagt a second attempt, this time from 29 yards out. Vanderjagt sunk the second kick, and the Colts improved to 5-0 on the year.
Final/OT: Colts 38, Buccaneers 35.
While the Colts did not reach the pinnacle of American football until the 2006 season, the comeback served as a catalyst to an eventual run to the AFC Conference Championship game in January of 2004. The Colts continued their run of success until the 2011 season, adding a pair of AFC crowns and Super Bowl XLI. Head coach Tony Dungy exacted revenge on his former employer, and he remained with the Colts until the end of the 2008 season.
On the contrary, the Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. The Monday Night Football collapse contributed to the Buccaneers posting a losing record for the first time since 1996. Since 2002, the Bucs have registered five winning seasons, culminating in a pair of wild-card losses in 2005 and 2007. Head coach Jon Gruden remained in Tampa until a December collapse in 2008 led to him leaving the sport.