There are some games that just defy the logical mind. There's some that are just great theater to watch, no matter the final outcome of the contest. The fact that the Bucs won with one of the most beloved figures in Tampa Bay sports history making the play of the game just made it that much more meaningful.
In 2005, the Bucs had surprised a lot of people, racing to a 5-1 start a year after going 5-11. However, Tampa Bay had come crashing back to earth following their bye week with two straight defeats.
The Washington Redskins trudged into Raymond James Stadium with an identical 5-3 record, winners of two of their last three games.
With the NFC South slipping away from their grasp - the Bucs needed a win desperately.
No one could imagine the lengths they had to go to get it.
Tampa Bay jumped ahead early on with a pair of Mike Alstott touchdown runs, allowing the Bucs to build a 14-3 edge. It would be short lived, as Ladell Betts returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to get the Redskins into the ball game. Enhanced video replay showed Betts' foot clearly out of bounds but no replay was forthcoming.
The Bucs would answer right back, as rookie QB Chris Simms found Joey Galloway on a 24 yd strike through the heart of the Redskins defense, allowing the Bucs to build a 21-10 edge with 5:16 remaining in the first half.
The Skins weren't quite done, though, as Washington QB Mark Brunell marched the Skins on 10 play 52 yard drive that culminated in 40 yd Jon Hall field goal.
At the half, the Bucs held the edge 21-13.
After a penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half set the Bucs in the shadow of their own end zone, Carnell Williams coughed up the football at the Tampa Bay 10 yard line, setting up the Skins in point blank range.
Three plays later, Mark Brunell hit FB Mark Sellers on a screen and he took it in from 7 yards out. The Redskins would go for the tie with a two point conversion. Brunell found Clinton Portis in the endzone to convert the two points and tie the game at 21.
After a Bucs drive stalled, the Redskins continued to be hot, marching 73 yards on 9 plays and Brunell hit Betts on a slant that he took 17 yards to paydirt, suddenly Washington had surged ahead 28-21.
Chris Simms got old Mo' back on the Bucs side with an answer drive of 70 yds in 7 plays. Simms finished off the drive by hitting Ike Hilliard on a four yard scoring pass to even it back up at 28.
As the game moved to the final stanza, the drama began to ratchet up even more.
Washington re-took the lead on a dominating, clock eating 16 play, 76 yard drive that bled 8:36 off the clock. Brunell kept the chains moving throughout the drive with short passing plays that got just enough yardage to extend the possession. Ultimately, it would be Clinton Portis who capitalized on the drive, powering off right end for an 8 yard touchdown run.
The Bucs tried to answer, moving all the way down to the Redskins' 12 yard line. But on fourth and goal from the 12, Simms' pass attempt to Joey Galloway fell incomplete and it appeared that the Bucs were letting another one slip away.
With 3:37 remaining, Washington coach Joe Gibbs went old school, trying to bleed the clock with his bell cow back Clinton Portis. The Bucs' defense stiffened and forced a three and out.
One last chance for young Simms and the offense with only 1:52 and 54 yds away from salvation.
Simms was poised, hitting Galloway for 13 yards to the Redskins' 41. He calmly hit WR Edell Sheppard on an 11 yard strike to the Washington 30.
After spiking the ball, 1:10 remained.
Simms wasn't going to nickel and dime his team down the field - he wasn't that kind of ball player. He let a bomb fly to the back of the end zone that Sheppard pulled in for a game saving 30 yard touchdown.
It appeared we were headed to overtime...but then disaster struck. The stadium and Bucs sideline gasped in horror as Matt Bryant's game tying extra point was blocked. All that work that had gone into the comeback - perhaps the Bucs season - gone on a blocked extra point.
"I heard the blocked extra point," Bucs receiver Joey Galloway told reporters after the game, "Everybody teared up, and it was like the end of the world just happened. Then we see the flag, and you start to hear the whispers. "Let's go for it. Let's go for it.' He made the call, and it's surprising. Your initial reaction is, "Really?' Then you get all excited. "Let's Go!' When you have a guy like Alstott who played the way he did (Sunday), you take your chances."
Offsides on the Redskins allowed a stay of execution. Now Jon Gruden had to make up his mind. Play for the tie or go for the win?
Just a week earlier, Rams coach Dick Vermeil made the decision to pass on overtime and go for the win. They succeeded. Could the Bucs do the same?
Gruden made the call. At the goal line - only one man could get the football. One of the most beloved players in Tampa Bay history, Mike Alstott, was feeling a bit under utilized in Jon Gruden's offense. It frustrated Gruden to no end, hearing "Give the ball to the A-train," seemed to tweak Gruden's ego just a bit.
He would either be a genius with brass ones by having Alstott win the game or he'd simply point to Alstott's failed attempt and say, "There's your savior. Maybe I do know what I'm doing."
Either way, it was going to be Alstott up the gut and everyone in the stadium knew it.
Alstott plunged toward the goal line it seemed every single player on the Washington Redskins defense (and maybe even some on the bench) swallowed him up. The Train's powerful thighs kept churning, he kept twisting and suddenly he found himself body surfing toward the goal line.
Did the ball break the plane of the goal? Who knows? On the field it was ruled a good conversion. Instant replay proved inconclusive. The Redskins and their fans insist to this day he failed.
The bottom line was on the field, Alstott had saved the day and the Bucs took a 36-35 lead with just 0:58 left. The Bucs defense would snuff out any chance for a dramatic last second field goal by stopping the Redskins on 4th and 10 on their own side of the fifty.
It was a game for the ages and a victory that righted the ship for the Bucs. They would win six of their last eight games to capture their second NFC South crown (on tie-breakers) and earn a home playoff game against - those same Washington Redskins.
That game too would come down to the final moments, but this time, Simms pass to Edell Sheppard would fall incomplete and the Bucs would fall short.