Gruden puzzled by Bucs' fourth-quarter collapse

Updated: October 7, 2003, 8:36 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jon Gruden is still trying to figure out what went wrong.

When you are the coach of the defending Super Bowl champions and have one of the NFL's best defenses, you just don't expect to blow a three-touchdown lead in the last four minutes of regulation and let an opponent drive 76 yards to kick the winning field goal in overtime.

"For the first time since I've been here, a team was able to overcome tremendous odds in a predictable situation, convert some third downs, and was able to throw the ball and have success," Gruden said Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the 38-35 loss to Indianapolis.

"What can I say? I'm not going to stand up here and justify what occurred. We got bombed in the ninth inning. We have to move on."

Peyton Manning and the Colts became the first team in NFL history to win a game after trailing by 21 or more points with four minutes remaining in regulation when they rallied from a 35-14 deficit to beat the Bucs on Mike Vanderjagt's second-chance field goal in overtime.

Manning exploited a secondary that played most of the night without cornerback Brian Kelly. Marvin Harrison had 11 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns and also set up the TD that forced the overtime when he beat reserve cornerback Tim Wansley on a 52-yard reception.

"Would Brian Kelly have made a difference in the game? We'd like to think so. We think Brian is an outstanding football player," Gruden said. "(Colts running back) Edgerrin James might have made a difference. Injuries are what they are. Every team has to overcome them, certainly our young corner (Wansley) was victimized a couple of times by a great receiver."

After allowing just one touchdown -- on a 2-yard drive -- in Tampa Bay's first three games, the defense yielded five against Indianapolis, with the last three in the final 3:37 of regulation.

"We didn't make plays, bottom line," linebacker Derrick Brooks said.

"We've just got to finish games off. It's not the end of the world, but we're not where we want to be."

Brad Pyatt began the comeback with a 90-yard kickoff return that set up James Mungro's 3-yard TD run to trim Tampa Bay's lead to 35-21. The Colts also helped themselves by returning an onside kick.

Vanderjagt kicked the game-winning field goal one play after missing a 40-yard attempt wide right. He got another chance when Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for leaping to try to block the kick and landing on a teammate.

Gruden didn't try to pin the loss on the penalty.

"There were numerous factors toward the end of that game. Indianapolis was a factor. And from an offensive standpoint, we almost ran out of bodies in the overtime session. We'll make no excuses about it, we had numerous chances to win," Gruden said.

"We need to call the Dodgers and see if we can get (Eric) Gagne, the guy with 66 saves. You go 8 1-3, you have to get the last two outs. We were unable to do that in two home games, and I know it's irritating and disgusting to our football team."

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