For three quarters Monday night, the scene was eerily familiar to Tony Dungy. The Raymond James Stadium crowd was deafening and the Bucs' defense was dominant, devouring Dungy's new team like a starved lion chasing raw meat. Then came the fourth quarter, and suddenly nothing looked the way it did before. Except maybe to Colts fans.
Like those gag candles on a birthday cake, the Colts' offense caught fire and burned incessantly, scoring 28 fourth-quarter points to force an overtime session in which they made Dungy's return to Tampa Bay a triumphant, yet controversial one. Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal with 3:47 remaining in overtime capped one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history and gave Indianapolis a 38-35 victory against the Bucs.
Vanderjagt, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, missed on his first attempt to end the game when his 40-yard field goal try with 3:52 left in overtime drifted wide right. Though replays clearly showed otherwise, officials ruled that Simeon Rice climbed up and landed on the back of a teammate in an effort to block the kick. ``The call was leaping,'' said referee Johnny Grier, who said umpire Ed Coukart made the call. ``Leaping is when a player starting more than one yard off the line of scrimmage moving forward and jumping up and landing on a player.''
Given another chance and and an extra 15 yards, Vanderjagt made good the second time around to keep Dungy's Colts unbeaten at 5-0 and dropped the Bucs to 2-2 - two games behind first-place Carolina in the NFC South Division. ``They just stole the victory right from underneath us,'' said cornerback Corey Ivy, whose team has now lost three of its last four home games. ``I'm really going to look at that play carefully,'' Jon Gruden said. ``I really don't think we were in error on the field.''
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who was unable to move his team early on, made few errors down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, he led the Colts to 12 first downs and 197 yards of offense. Manning was at his best in overtime. After the Bucs' only overtime offensive was stopped, Manning converted two key third downs in the Colts' final scoring drive, hitting a 16-yard ass to Reggie Wayne and a 9-yard pass to Troy Walters before again hitting Wayne on a 16-yard pass play that put the Colts in field-goal range at the Tampa Bay 31. Colts running back Ricky Williams, filling in for an injured Edgerrin James, scored twice from the 1 in the fourth quarter to bring the Colts back. His second touchdown, with 35 seconds left in regulation, helped tie the game at 35.
The loss ruined an otherwise outstanding offensive effort for the Bucs. Keenan McCardell caught four passes for 106 yards, including three for touchdowns. Michael Pittman ran 16 times for 106 yards, and quarterback Brad Johnson completed 26 of 39 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Though hyped as Dungy's homecoming, the game was always going to be a duel between the defensive-minded Dungy and the offensive-minded Gruden. And in that classic confrontation of elite football minds, Gruden scored the first decisive blow. When he got wide receiver McCardell matched up against middle linebacker Rob Morris well downfield early in the first quarter, the pressure on Brad Johnson couldn't prevent McCardell from making a big play. Breaking free of a stumbling Morris at midfield, McCardell hauled in a desperation throw from Johnson and ran the rest of a the 74 yards untouched to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.
Dungy scored the next big blow, getting an interception from safety Mike Doss three plays into the Bucs next possession. But Gruden's counterpunch during Doss' return was far more devastating. Aided by a haymaker from center John Wade, who knocked the ball loose from Doss as he scampered across midfield, McCardell scored his second touchdown in as many touches when he scooped the ball up and ran untouched for another 57 yards to make it 14-0.
The Colts had tried to establish a ground game to that point, but after falling behind by two scores, they were forced to go to the air. That didn't work either, though, as the Bucs got the ball back after just five plays. Sensing an opportunity to take the Colts out early, Gruden went for the knockout blow. He threw 25 yards to Keyshawn Johnson on the first play of the Bucs' next drive, then had Brad Johnson throw a 3-yard pass to Reggie Barlow to make it 21-0 seven plays later.
The Colts' defense finally started fending off Gruden's body blows late in the first half, but then the usually stoic Dungy could be seen shaking his head on the sidelines. It was an apt display of emotion, for the Colts, who scored a club record 55 points a week ago against New Orleans, finished the first half with just 86 total yards of offensive, including just 20 yards rushing. The only Colt to have any success was Peyton Manning, who completed 11 of 15 passes during the first 30 minutes. But in the face of a steady stream of pass rushers, Manning gained just 66 yards on his completions, most of which came off short throws underneath the coverage.
The Colts came out in the second half looking a lot more like the team that put up 55 points against the Saints. Moving quickly downfield, they cut the Bucs' lead to 21-7 with a five-play drive that culminated with Manning hitting Harrison with a 37-yard TD pass. Harrison was matched against Tim Wansley on the play, which was largely the result of the Bucs losing starting corner Brian Kelly to a torn pectoral muscle in the first quarter. Harrison beat Wansley for a first-down catch on a third-down play a series later, but that play was wiped out by a procedure penalty. Two plays later the Colts series was wiped out and for a while it appeared as if their chances of a comeback had been wiped out, too.
Though the Colts engineered two quick scoring drives against a tiring Bucs defense in the fourth quarter, the Bucs seemed to put this one away with two long offensive drives and a Ronde Barber interception return for a score late in the fourth quarter. The Colts bounced back, though, scoring on a 28-yard pass to Harrison with 2:29 left and on Williams' second 1-yard plunge with 35 seconds left to force the overtime.