INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have at several junctures over the years been the National Football League's embodiment of perseverance.
Accordingly, the organization's never-say-die attitude has been responsible for producing some of the most inspiring — and entertaining — contests in NFL history.
Not surprisingly, two historic come-from-behind efforts by the Colts are being featured as the league's continues to celebrate its 100th season.
The NFL Network tonight debuted the first part of its "NFL 100 Greatest Games" list, and the Colts' 2003 miraculous Monday Night Football comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 65) and the team's comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs in their 2013 AFC Wild Card playoff matchup (No. 61) both made the cut.
(One might imagine yet another great comeback effort from the Colts — which resulted in their victory over the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship game — could also very well be making an appearance on a future episode of "NFL 100 Greatest Games," but we'll have to wait and see on that one.)
Here's a taste of both games, with recaps via The Associated Press:
No. 65: Another Monday Night Miracle (Oct. 7, 2003)
TAMPA, Fla. — Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal with 3:47 remaining in overtime capped one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history and gave the Indianapolis Colts a 38-35 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
Peyton Manning rallied the Colts from a 35-14 deficit with four minutes left in regulation, sending the game into overtime on Ricky Williams' 1-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds to play. Marvin Harrison, who had two touchdown catches, set up the tying score with a 52-yard reception to the Tampa Bay 5.
Manning realized the difficulty of his task.
"Twenty-one-nothing in here at Tampa on Monday night is not an ideal situation," he said. "What a game, what a win."
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 (5-0) 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.
Vanderjagt had missed a potential game-winning field goal from 39 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, and coach Tony Dungy had the win on his return to Tampa.
Dungy was as surprised as Manning to score so many points against one of the best defenses in the league, maybe in history.
"I didn't think 35 points in a half, no," he said.
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 game-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.
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 (2-2), which looked like it would ruin Dungy's homecoming when it took the big halftime lead.
No. 61: Luck, Colts Stun Chiefs In AFC Wild Card Thriller (Jan. 4, 2014)
INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano couldn't believe his eyes. Andrew Luck couldn't believe his ears. Colts fans couldn't believe the scoreboard, and the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't believe their incredibly bad luck.
It seemed unfathomable.
On a day Luck appeared to be pressing and, at times, as bad as he ever has played while putting Indianapolis in a 28-point deficit, the Colts quarterback somehow turned things around.
He threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half, scored on a fumble return and connected with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton on a 64-yard TD pass to give the Colts an improbable 45-44 wild-card victory Saturday.
"One for the ages," said Pagano, Indianapolis' coach. "I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever. I guess 21 wasn't large enough at half, so we thought we'd give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting."
Actually, rallying from 28 down made the latest of Luck's amazing comebacks one to remember.
Indianapolis (12-5) became only the second playoff team to rally from that big a deficit. Buffalo rallied from 32 points to beat Houston 41-38 in January 1993, though that one required overtime.
The Colts, winners of four straight, travel to either Denver or New England next weekend for the divisional round.
Luck was an incredible mix of good and bad, finishing 29 of 45 for 443 yards, the second-highest yardage total in franchise history for a playoff game. He also matched his career high with three interceptions. Hilton broke franchise playoff records with 13 catches and 224 yards, and also caught two TDs.
But it was the way Indy won that made it stunning.
Luck played angry and frantic, turning a steady stream of halftime boos into a chorus of cheers.
"I don't know if it ever crossed my mind on how it would be remembered," Luck said after winning his first playoff game four seasons quicker than it took his predecessor, Peyton Manning. "When I took a knee, and you feel the buzz and the energy of the crowd and see your teammates' faces, that makes it special."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Colts had just a 3.6 percent chance of winning the game when they trailed 31-10 at halftime. That dropped to 0.9 percent when the Chiefs took a 38-10 lead with 13:39 left in the third quarter.
For Kansas City, it was another brief, miserable postseason appearance.
The Chiefs (11-6) finished their remarkable turnaround season with three straight losses and an eighth straight postseason defeat -- none more shocking than this one. The eight consecutive losses broke a tie with the Detroit Lions for the longest playoff skid.
And they were beaten up, too.
Starting running back Jamaal Charles left with a concussion on the opening possession. Knile Davis, Charles' backup, left in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a left knee injury. Receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers were knocked out with second-half concussions, and linebacker Justin Houston was out with a knee injury when Hilton caught the winning pass.
That put even more pressure on Alex Smith, who was 30 of 46 for 378 yards with four TDs and no interceptions but lost a fumble that led to a touchdown for Indy. Just about everyone other than the Colts figured Smith sealed the win with a 10-yard TD pass to Davis less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Instead, he tried to rally the Chiefs after Hilton's score and wound up throwing to Dwayne Bowe -- who caught the ball but was out of bounds -- on fourth-and-11 with 1:55 to play from the Indy 43.
"Anytime you're leading like that and then have them battle back and then take it, and you end up losing by a point, it's tough, a tough pill to swallow," Smith said.
Things appeared bleak with Indy trailing 31-10 at halftime, and they got worse when Luck's first pass of the second half was picked off and returned to the Indy 18. Three plays later, Smith made it 38-10.
But Luck had plenty of time to make the jaw-dropping rally.
With Indy going no-huddle, Luck started throwing at will. He eventually caught the Chiefs defense off-guard when Donald Brown scored on a 10-yard run to start the rally. Then Luck capitalized on the fumble by hooking up with Brown on a 3-yard TD pass to make it 38-24.
After Luck's third interception turned into a 42-yard field goal, he answered with a 12-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 41-31 after three quarters.
The Chiefs only pressured Luck on 2-of-25 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They also allowed him to complete 8 of 9 passes on throw of 10 or more yards.
"He's as advertised. He went out there and definitely avoided some pressure and made big plays down the field," Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith said, referring to Luck.
Even when Eric Berry jarred the ball loose from Brown near the goal line, Luck had the answer. He scooped up the bouncing ball and squirted through the middle to make it 41-38. And after a Kansas City field, goal, Luck found Hilton to win it.
"It seemed surreal, being down like we were down and then you have that fourth-down stop and they had used their last timeout there at the 2-minute warning," Pagano said. "Thinking about how good tomorrow's going to be, snow or no snow, I don't really care."