The Indianapolis Colts had many memorable wins with Peyton Manning playing quarterback. But a 2003 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stands out from a historical fashion because it was, at the time, the greatest regular-season comeback in NFL history.
It nearly never happened -- Manning's old coach Tony Dungy revealed on Pro Football Talk live Friday that he almost yanked Manning in what looked like a blowout against his old team.
The Colts were trailing the Buccaneers 35-14 with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter and, rather understandably, Dungy believed the game was over.
"We're three scores down with four and a half minutes to go and I'm saying, 'We ought to take our first group out, cut our losses and go home.' And Tom Moore, our offensive coordinator, said, 'I don't know if I'd do that,'" Dungy recalled. "And about 12 minutes later we're going in the locker room with a win, scoring 24 points in that time. That was Peyton. Ultimate competitor, a guy who could do things that you didn't think were possible, and a guy who really wanted to win."
The Win Probability graph on this game is something truly magical to behold
And while this instance in particular was rare for Manning -- again, it was the greatest comeback in NFL history, so no one had done it -- seeing 18 roll up on someone from behind wasn't that unusual throughout the course of his career. Manning recorded a ridiculous 56 fourth-quarter comebacks in his Hall of Fame career, easily the most in NFL history. Only Tom Brady has more than 50, at 51, and a viable shot at catching Manning. Drew Brees (42) and Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger (39 each) are the next closest active quarterbacks.
It was something that Manning specialized in, and it served as a reminder to Dungy that he should never, ever count out his quarterback. It's also a reminder of just how brilliant Manning was as a quarterback.
Fortunately he had coaches who didn't count him out, otherwise we might have been robbed of some of his brilliance.