Fans in attendance at Raymond James Stadium during the Eagles Monday Night Football Game Against Tampa Bay this week got the opportunity to see the Buccaneers celebration to honor Ronde Barber, who took receipt of his Hall of Fame Ring during intermission.
If you think that is a coincidence well, think again.
Ronde Barber’s NFL achievements read like a 30-page thesis. A Super Bowl Champion in 2003, a three-time First-team All-Pro, five time Pro Bowl Selection, shares the record for NFL interceptions in 2001, and most consecutive starts by a defensive back with 224.
In college at the University of Virginia, he was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1994. In 1997, the Buccaneers selected Barber in the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft.
In the 2003 NFL Playoffs, the Eagles were ready to end a 42-year championship drought. In 2002, the Eagles had advanced to the NFC Championship Game in St. Louis only to lose 29–24 in the 4th quarter when an Aeneas Williams interception ended the game.
A year later, the Eagles were the top seed in the NFC Playoffs and defeated the Atlanta Falcons at home 20–16 in the NFC Divisional Round. Quarterback Donovan McNabb was just back from injury.
The Eagles next opponent was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had never won a playoff game under 40 degrees, and were in Philadelphia. The Eagles had beaten Tampa Bay in the playoffs in 2001 and 2002, and now they were ready to end the Bucs season yet again.
The 2003 NFC Championship Game was also the final Eagles home game at Veterans Stadium. Opened in 1971, the Vet was the scene of the 1981 NFC Championship Game where the Eagles had beaten the Cowboys to advance to their first ever Super Bowl.
As the ball was kicked off and the game was underway, Brian Mitchell ran behind the wedge and broke free for a 70-yard return. One play later, Duce Staley took the ball in from twenty yards out to open the scoring. With 7:14 left in the first quarter and up 7–3, Bobby Taylor intercepted Brad Johnson at the 46-yard line as the decibel level at Veteran’s Stadium peaked.
For the next 46 minutes, Tampa Bay stunned the crowd at Veteran’s Stadium by taking almost complete control behind the running of Mike Alstott and Penn State’s Joe Jurevicius running free in the secondary.
With just over six and a half minutes left in the game and down 20–10, the Eagles offense began to mount a drive. On first and goal, McNabb fired a quick slant in the direction of Antonio Freeman. Ronde Barber jumped the route and sprinted to the end zone to shut the lights out at The Vet forever.
Thankfully, the Eagles would recover to return to the NFC Championship Game in 2004 and the Super Bowl in 2005.
So were we Philly fans excited about the Halftime Extravaganza? We were not.
Were we excited to demolish the Buccaneers 25–11 on Monday night?