2003 NFL Season
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2003 NFL Season

2003 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 4 - December 28, 2003
Start dateJanuary 3, 2004
AFC ChampionsNew England Patriots
NFC ChampionsCarolina Panthers
Super Bowl XXXVIII
DateFebruary 1, 2004
SiteReliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
ChampionsNew England Patriots
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 8, 2004
SiteAloha Stadium

The 2003 NFL season was the 84th regular season of the National Football League (NFL).

Regular-season play was held from September 4, 2003, to December 28, 2003. Due to damage caused by the Cedar Fire, Qualcomm Stadium was used as an emergency shelter, and thus the Miami Dolphins-San Diego Chargers regular-season match on October 27 was instead played at Sun Devil Stadium, the home field of the Arizona Cardinals. This was the first season in NFL History where every team won at least 4 games.

The playoffs began on January 3, 2004. The NFL title was won by the New England Patriots when they defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 1.

This was the last season until the 2016 NFL season where neither of the previous Super Bowl participants made the playoffs.


The 2003 NFL Draft was held from April 26 to 27, 2003 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Cincinnati Bengals selected quarterback Carson Palmer from the University of Southern California.

Referee changes

Dick Hantak and Bob McElwee retired in the 2003 off-season. Hantak joined the league as a back judge in 1978, and was assigned Super Bowl XVII in that position. He was promoted to referee in 1986, working Super Bowl XXVII. McElwee joined the NFL in 1976 as a line judge, and became a referee in 1980. He was the referee for three Super Bowls: XXII, XXVIII, and XXXIV. Walt Anderson and Pete Morelli were promoted to referee to replace Hantak and McElwee.

Major rule changes

"NFL Kickoff" event on September 4, 2003: Joe Theismann (L) and Joe Namath (R) at a military tribute
  • If an onside kick inside the final five minutes of the game does not go 10 yards, goes out of bounds, or is touched illegally, the receiving team will have the option of accepting the penalty and getting the ball immediately. Previously, the kicking team was penalized, but had another chance to kick again from five yards back.
  • League officials encouraged networks to immediately cut to a commercial break if an instant replay challenge review was initiated. Previously networks were generally not permitted to utilize those game stoppages for their prescribed commercial periods.[1]

2003 deaths

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Final regular season standings


  • Indianapolis finished ahead of Tennessee in the AFC South based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
  • Denver clinched the AFC 6 seed instead of Miami based on better conference record (9-3 to 7-5).
  • Buffalo finished ahead of N.Y. Jets in the AFC East based on better division record (2-4 to 1-5).
  • Jacksonville finished ahead of Houston in the AFC South based on better division record (2-4 to 1-5).
  • Oakland finished ahead of San Diego in the AFC West based on better conference record (3-9 to 2-10).
  • Philadelphia clinched the NFC 1 seed instead of St. Louis based on better conference record (9-3 to 8-4).
  • Seattle clinched the NFC 5 seed instead of Dallas based on strength of victory (.406 to .388).


Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5, or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4, or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.


Jan. 3 - Bank of America Stadium Jan. 10 - Edward Jones Dome
6 Dallas 10
3 Carolina 29**
3 Carolina 29 Jan. 18 - Lincoln Financial Field
2 St. Louis 23
Jan. 4 - Lambeau Field 3 Carolina 14
Jan. 11 - Lincoln Financial Field
1 Philadelphia 3
5 Seattle 27 NFC Championship
4 Green Bay 17
4 Green Bay 33* Feb. 1 - Reliant Stadium
1 Philadelphia 20*
Wild Card playoffs
Divisional playoffs
Jan. 4 - RCA Dome N3 Carolina 29
Jan. 11 - Arrowhead Stadium
A1 New England 32
6 Denver 10 Super Bowl XXXVIII
3 Indianapolis 38
3 Indianapolis 41 Jan. 18 - Gillette Stadium
2 Kansas City 31
Jan. 3 - M&T Bank Stadium 3 Indianapolis 14
Jan. 10 - Gillette Stadium
1 New England 24
5 Tennessee 20 AFC Championship
5 Tennessee 14
4 Baltimore 17
1 New England 17

* Indicates overtime victory
** Indicates double overtime victory


The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:

Record Player or team Date/Opponent Previous record holder[5]
Most Touchdowns, Season Priest Holmes, Kansas City (27) December 28, vs. Chicago Marshall Faulk, St. Louis, 2000 (26)
Most Rushing Yards Gained, Game Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (295) September 14, vs. Cleveland Corey Dillon, Cincinnati vs. Denver, October 22, 2000 (278)
Most Consecutive Field Goals Mike Vanderjagt, Indianapolis December 28, at Houston Gary Anderson, 1997-98 (40)
Most Consecutive Road Games Lost Detroit Lions December 21, vs. Carolina Houston Oilers, 1981-84 (23)
Most consecutive games with a sack Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69) November 9, 2003 Dallas Cowboys (68)

Statistical leaders


Points scored Kansas City Chiefs (484)
Total yards gained Minnesota Vikings (6,294)
Yards rushing Baltimore Ravens (2,674)
Yards passing Indianapolis Colts (4,179)
Fewest points allowed New England Patriots (238)
Fewest total yards allowed Dallas Cowboys (4,056)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Tennessee Titans (1,295)
Fewest passing yards allowed Dallas Cowboys (2,631)


Scoring Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (163 points)
Touchdowns Priest Holmes, Kansas City (27 TDs)
Most field goals made Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (39 FGs)
Rushing Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2,066 yards)
Passing Steve McNair, Tennessee (100.4 rating)
Passing touchdowns Brett Favre, Green Bay (32 TDs)
Pass receiving Torry Holt, St. Louis (117 catches)
Pass receiving yards Torry Holt, St. Louis (1,696)
Pass receiving touchdowns Randy Moss, Minnesota (17 touchdowns)
Punt returns Dante Hall, Kansas City (16.3 average yards)
Kickoff returns Jerry Azumah, Chicago (29.0 average yards)
Interceptions Brian Russell, Minnesota and Tony Parrish, San Francisco (9)
Punting Shane Lechler, Oakland (46.9 average yards)
Sacks Michael Strahan, New York Giants (18.5)


Coaching changes

Stadium changes

Tennessee at Green Bay in the preseason; both teams made the playoffs

In addition new turf was installed for the following teams:

New uniforms

  • The Atlanta Falcons unveiled a new uniform design featuring red trim down the sides of both the jerseys and pants. The pants were switched from gray to white. Black remained the primary jersey color while a red alternate jersey was also introduced. The falcons helmet logo was redesigned to be more aggressive and closely resemble a capital "F".
  • The Cincinnati Bengals added new alternate black pants with their black jerseys for select home games.
  • The Cleveland Browns added new alternate orange pants last worn during the 1970s-early 1980s Kardiac Kids era of coach Sam Rutigliano.
  • The Denver Broncos introduced blue pants with orange streaks to match with their blue jerseys.
  • The Detroit Lions introduced a new design that added black trim to their logo and jerseys, and changed their face masks from blue to black.
  • The Houston Texans added red third alternate uniforms.
  • The Miami Dolphins added orange third alternate uniforms.
  • The New England Patriots added silver third alternate uniforms.
  • The New Orleans Saints wore gold pants full time, discontinuing using black pants with their white jerseys.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles added silver trim to the jersey numbers on uniforms, and black third alternate uniforms.
  • The San Diego Chargers wore white pants instead of blue with their white jerseys.
  • The Tennessee Titans added powder blue third alternate uniforms.


  1. ^ Gaughan, Mark (March 27, 2003). "Execs Plan Only Minor Procedures". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "John Butler (1946-2003)". Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved 2021.
  3. ^ Bikoff, Ken (May 7, 2003). "Woodley's death sad but powerful". Pro Football Weekly. Archived from the original on July 2, 2005. Retrieved 2007.
  4. ^ Martin, Susan (January 4, 2003). "Legendary Gillman dies at 91". Buffalo News. Retrieved 2021.
  5. ^ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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