Colts come back from 21 down, shock Buccaneers in overtime
After a 4-0 start against 5-11 competition, Tony Dungy brought his Indianapolis Colts to Raymond James Stadium to take their measure against the Super Bowl champions. What the Colts sometimes lacked in execution, they certainly made up for in mettle. On a warm, muggy Monday night in central Florida, the Colts handled the heat. They twice came back from a 21-point deficit to force overtime, then beat formidable Tampa Bay 38-35 on Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal with 3:47 to play. "Tony kept everybody calm," said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who completed 34-of-47 passes for 386 yards and two touchdowns. "Being down 21-0 here at Tampa on Monday night is not an ideal situation. He told us at halftime, it was our fault, mistakes, penalties, breakdowns."
The Colts scored 35 points in the second half against the NFL's best defense. Down 35-14 with 5:09 to play, they scored 21 points in 3:02 to force overtime. "These guys never give up," said Dungy. "That's what I like about this team."
The Colts are 5-0 for the first time since 1977 and only the fourth time in their 51 years of NFL membership. The other two, 1958 and 1968, led to NFL championships. The victory hoisted the Colts into a two-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South. The comeback was one for the ages. Down 35-14, Brad Pyatt set up the first touchdown with a 90-yard kickoff return. James Mungro scored on a 3-yard run. Manning then hit wide receiver Marvin Harrison with a 28-yard touchdown pass, then went back to Harrison for a 52-yarder that set up Ricky Williams' 1-yard touchdown run. Overtime.
Most of the sellout crowd of 65,647 was long gone. They had left thinking their Bucs were victors. The Bucs won the coin flip, but the Colts stopped them despite a running-into-the-punter call on Dominic Rhodes. Starting at their 13-yard line, the Colts came back once more. Manning completed a third-and-six pass to Harrison for 8 yards. He hit wide receiver Reggie Wayne for 16 yards on third-and-11. He hit wide receiver Troy Walters for nine yards on third-and-six.
Harrison had another monster night -- 11 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns -- but everyone contributed with running back Edgerrin James out with a back injury for the second successive game. Vanderjagt was wide right on a 40-yard field-goal attempt, but Bucs end Simeon Rice was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, leaping. In his attempt to block the field goal, he ran and came down on a teammate. "Leaping is a player starting more than 1 yard off the line of scrimmage and running forward and landing on players," said referee Johnny Grier. "It was reported that he was running forward. He jumped and landed on his own players."
Vanderjagt was given a second chance, from 29 yards, a chip shot, but the drama was not over. The snap was off target, but holder Hunter Smith handled it and got the ball down. Vanderjagt's kick started right but was deflected by Bucs lineman Ellis Wyms just enough to get in play. The football smacked into the right upright and glanced through for the game-winner, the eighth of Vanderjagt's career. "What a win," gasped Manning. "What a game."
It was a happy homecoming for Dungy. He was greeted with handshakes, hugs and applause during the pregame period. He even visited with members of the Glazier family, who own the Bucs and fired him two years ago. When Dungy approached the stands, the smattering of early arriving fans poured down the aisles to the railing and shouted for him. Dungy did a lot during his six years as coach to build the team that won Super Bowl XXXVII. The Buccaneers had staggered through 13 consecutive losing seasons before he was named their coach in 1996. He produced a 54-42 regular-season record but was fired following the 2001 season. The fans showed their appreciation and affection. The Bucs showed their teeth. The Colts just kept on playing.