Buccaneers stunned by collapse against Colts

Updated: October 7, 2003, 5:26 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Keenan McCardell put it best.

"You've got to seal the envelope and put it in the mail," the Tampa Bay receiver said. "And we didn't seal the envelope."

Up 21 points with four minutes to play, the Super Bowl champions Bucs let it all slip away against former coach Tony Dungy and the resilient Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts overcame the three-TD deficit in regulation, and won 38-35 on Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal in overtime Monday night. The Bucs became the first NFL team to ever blow a 21-point lead with that little time on the clock.

"Obviously, a very agonizing defeat," coach Jon Gruden said.

The Bucs' NFL-leading defense will receive most of the criticism, but it was a team effort.

"We didn't make our plays, bottom line," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "No matter what the score is, when we've got the opportunity, we've got to finish drives off, we've got to finish stops. Defense, offense, special teams -- we've got to finish."

After Ronde Barber's 29-yard interception return gave the Buccaneers (2-2) their short-lived 21-point advantage with 5:09 left in regulation, the kickoff coverage unit allowed Brad Pyatt a 90-yard return to Tampa 12. Four plays later, James Mungro scored on a 3-yard run, cutting the lead to 14 with 3:37 to play.

The Colts recovered the onside kick, and Peyton Manning went to work. He completed passes of 15, 11, 9 and 28 yards, the last a TD strike to Marvin Harrison at the 2:29 mark.

That was two touchdowns in 68 seconds, prompting mass squirming among the fans who hadn't bolted for the parking lot following Barber's score.

Tampa got the ball after a failed onside kick, but two weak runs and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back 17 yards while killing but 23 seconds. A punt gave Indianapolis possession on its 15 with 1:41 to go.

Manning had to pass and the Buccaneers knew it. But that knowledge didn't help any against the man who threw six touchdown passes last week in New Orleans.

After an incompletion, a 12-yard pass and roughing-the-passer penalty brought Indianapolis to its 41. Manning followed by hitting Harrison in stride for a 53-yard gain down to the 6.

In the fourth quarter and overtime, Manning completed 18 of 26 passes for 235 yards.

"We had them in a predictable situation -- a very, very good situation for us," Gruden said. "Unfortunately, we had a guy that made the plays when he had to."

Two plays later, Ricky Williams scored his second touchdown of the quarter and the game was tied.

Tampa Bay won the overtime toss and retained hope when a running-into-the-kicker penalty kept a drive alive, but it faded at the Indianapolis 41 and the Buccaneers punted.

Manning responded by going 5-of-9 for 48 yards -- including conversions on third-and-6, third-and-11 and third-and-6 -- in setting up Vanderjagt's winning kick.

Vanderjagt missed his first try, from 40 yards, but the play was nullified when umpire Ed Courkart ruled Simeon Rice jumped forward and landed on his teammates while trying to block the kick.

Given a second chance, Vanderjagt grazed the right upright but won the game anyway.

"This game wasn't decided by a call," Tampa defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said. "It should never have gotten to that point."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index