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Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber carries an interception toward for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during the NFC Championship game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003.  The Buccaneers defeated the Eagles 27-10.(AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber carries an interception toward for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during the NFC Championship game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003. The Buccaneers defeated the Eagles 27-10.(AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Published Jan. 19, 2018

Fifteen years ago today, cornerback Ronde Barber made what's considered the greatest play in Bucs history, returning an interception of Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb 92-yards for a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-10 win in the NFC Championship game.

Two things often get lost in the remembrance of that iconic play. One, it was the final NFL game ever played in Philadelphia's Veteran's Stadium, which had been house of horrors for the Bucs. Their previous two seasons had ended there in the playoffs.

Secondly, the play, with the Eagles trailing 20-10 and driving with under four minutes remaining in the game, punctuated one of the most dominant performances by a player in playoff history.

In addition to his pick six, Barber also recorded a sack, forced a fumble, had three tackles and three other passes defensed. He also drew a key interference penalty while attempting to make a fair catch on a punt.

In fact, because Barber had blitzed from his position as a slot corner, causing the sack-fumble earlier in the game, he actually baited McNabb.

Before the interception, Barber took two steps toward McNabb, encouraging him to throw quickly to receiver Antonio Freeman. But Barber retreated at the snap and stepped in front of Freeman for the pick six.

A few steps before Barber reached the end zone, he held the football his right hand and used his left hand to point to the "BARBER,'' name on the back of his jersey. It was the ultimate in your face rub to Eagles fans, who had always treated his twin brother, Giants running back Tiki Barber, very poorly.

When the game ended, the Eagles crowd did not boo. It was an eerie silence and just the sound of 66,713 shuffling out of the Vet for the final time.

"I imagine them, what the outburst of emotion must have been,'' Barber said.

Barber entered the game with a chip on his shoulder. He had been snubbed for the Pro Bowl while three Eagles defensive backs – Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Brian Dawkins — made the NFC all-star team

"(Bleep) the Pro Bowl, I'm going to San Diego,'' Barber shouted to the sideline cameras.

The next week, the Bucs beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21 to win Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. Tampa Bay had five interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. None were by Barber.

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