Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Colts win in OT with historic rally


Monday Night Football

By Fred Goodall
The Associated Press

[img]
Colts' Ricky Williams (35) takes the handoff from quarterback Peyton Manning (18) to score against Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks (55) during the fourth quarter Monday night.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
TAMPA, Fla. - Peyton Manning refused to give up. With Indianapolis down three touchdowns against the NFL's stingiest defense with four minutes left in regulation, the Colts quarterback pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in league history Monday night.

"I never lost confidence. But I'm not going to lie, it didn't look good," Manning said after Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal with 3:47 left in the extra period gave the Colts a 38-35 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's the old cliche - 60 minutes," Manning said. "Sometimes it's hard to keep believing that."

The Colts (5-0) sent the game into overtime on Ricky Williams' 1-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in regulation. Marvin Harrison, who had two touchdown catches, set up the tying score with a 52-yard reception to the Tampa Bay 5.

Harrison scored on second-half receptions of 37 and 28 yards, the latter trimming Tampa Bay's lead to 35-28 with 2:29 remaining in regulation.

Indianapolis became the first team in NFL history to win after trailing by 21 or more points with less than four minutes to play in regulation.

Colts coach Tony Dungy, returning to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since being fired by Tampa Bay in January 2002, improved to 4-0 in games against defending Super Bowl champions in the Bucs' home.

"Tony never brought it up, but we wanted to win for him - back here is this place, and it's his birthday," Manning said. "You always want to do that."

Vanderjagt had missed a potential winning field goal from 40 yards wide right a play earlier - it would have been his first miss of the season in 13 attempts - but Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice was called for leaping and landing on a teammate and the Colts got another chance.

Vanderjagt made the second kick - barely, as it went off the right upright and through after being deflected at the line by a Tampa Bay player.

Dungy, celebrating his 48th birthday, was as surprised as Manning to score so many points against one of the great defenses in the league.

"These guys just never gave up. That's what I like about us," Dungy said. "We've got great chemistry and I just had a feeling the Lord was going to do something, and he certainly did."

At halftime, he told his team how poorly it had performed.

"I told them that was the most disappointed I've been in our team," Dungy said. "We just didn't play our game."

Manning launched the winning drive from his own 13. He had crucial third-down completions of 8 yards to Harrison, 16 yards to Reggie Wayne and 9 yards to Troy Walters to keep the march alive.

Harrison's 37-yard TD catch put the Colts, who trailed 21-0 at halftime, on the scoreboard early in the third quarter. He finished with 11 catches for 176 yards.

"A lot of those plays, I tip my hat to Manning," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "He made some miraculous throws, and they made some incredible catches."

Williams, part of a committee of running backs filling in for the injured Edgerrin James, had a 1-yard TD run three minutes into the fourth quarter. James Mungro scored on a 3-yard run for the Colts with 3:37 remaining, the touchdown that started the comeback.

Tampa Bay (2-2) had a final chance to win at the end of regulation, but Martin Gramatica's 62-yard field goal attempt was tipped and fell just beyond the line of scrimmage. He also missed a 60-yard attempt at the end of the first half.

A week after throwing for 314 yards and six touchdowns in the Colts' 55-21 rout of New Orleans, Manning was 34-of-47 for 386 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which Ronde Barber returned 29 yards to give Tampa Bay a 35-14 lead with just over five minutes left in regulation.

Keenan McCardell caught two touchdown passes and scooped up an Indianapolis fumble and returned it 57 yards for another score for Tampa Bay, which looked like it would ruin Dungy's homecoming when it took the big halftime lead.

Dungy received a polite ovation from a crowd of 65,647 that likely included a generous number of fans who no doubt were not the least bit upset when he was fired in January 2002 after six successful seasons in Tampa Bay.

He's the winningest coach in franchise history, going 54-42 from 1996-2001 while turning around a club that had 14 straight losing seasons. But an anemic offense and consecutive first-round losses in the playoffs cost him his job.

McCardell caught TD passes of 74 and 15 yards from Brad Johnson. He was in the right place at the right time when safety Mike Doss fumbled after intercepting a poorly thrown pass and returned it 16 yards to the Tampa Bay 43.

Dungy led the Bucs to the playoffs four times in six seasons and is the architect of the Cover 2 defensive scheme that's been instrumental to Tampa Bay's success.

Although defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has tweaked some of the things the Bucs do, it was Dungy who developed the heart of the unit - Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch - into perennial Pro Bowl selections who make the system go.

"From my standpoint, I kind of understand now about Venus and Serena Williams when they say that there's never not that much joy in it," Dungy said. "I'm just extremely happy, but when you fight against guys that you've gone to war with, it was really tough out there."

The Colts are off to their best start since 1977.

McCardell is one of the players Gruden brought in to improve Tampa Bay's offense a year ago.

On his long touchdown reception, the 12th-year player slanted to the middle of the field and found himself with a mismatch against Colts middle linebacker Rob Morris, who stumbled near midfield when McCardell accelerated to run under Johnson's pass at the Indianapolis 30.

Johnson's 3-yard pass to Reggie Barlow put the Bucs up three touchdowns early in the second quarter and freed the Tampa Bay defense to unleash an all-out pass rush on Manning, who did a good job of getting rid of the ball and only sacked once.

Johnson finished 26-of-39 for 318 yards. Michael Pittman rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries, while McCardell had four receptions for 106 yards for Tampa Bay, which played in overtime without Keyshawn Johnson (leg bruise) and Pittman (cramps).




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