2003 NFL season

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2003 NFL season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 4 – December 28, 2003
Start dateJanuary 3, 2004
AFC Champions New England Patriots
NFC Champions Carolina Panthers
Super Bowl XXXVIII
DateFebruary 1, 2004
Site Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
Champions New England Patriots
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 8, 2004
Site Aloha Stadium
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AFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg North, Red pog.svg South, White pog.svg East
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NFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg North, Red pog.svg South, White pog.svg East

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 DolphinsSan 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, 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 (the position title was changed to field judge in 1998) 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 Joe Theismann Joe Namath.jpg
"NFL Kickoff" event on September 4, 2003: Joe Theismann (L) and Joe Namath (R) at a military tribute

2003 deaths

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Final regular season standings

Conference standings


Within each conference, the four division winners and the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1–4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5–6. 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 received a first-round bye. 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 met in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the championship round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference. [6]

Playoff seeds
1 New England Patriots (East winner) Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)
2 Kansas City Chiefs (West winner) St. Louis Rams (West winner)
3 Indianapolis Colts (South winner) Carolina Panthers (South winner)
4 Baltimore Ravens (North winner) Green Bay Packers (North winner)
5 Tennessee Titans (wild card) Seattle Seahawks (wild card)
6 Denver Broncos (wild card) Dallas Cowboys (wild card)


    Jan 3 – Bank of America Stadium Jan 10 – Edward Jones Dome
    6 Dallas 10
    3 Carolina 29Jan 18 – Lincoln Financial Field
    2 St. Louis 23
    Jan 4 – Lambeau Field 3Carolina14
    Jan 11Lincoln Financial Field
    5 Seattle 27NFC Championship
    4Green Bay17
    4 Green Bay 33*Feb 1 – Reliant Stadium
    1 Philadelphia 20*
    Wild Card playoffs
    Divisional playoffs
    Jan 4 – RCA Dome N3Carolina29
    Jan 11 – Arrowhead Stadium
    A1New England32
    6 Denver 10 Super Bowl XXXVIII
    3 Indianapolis 41Jan 18 – Gillette Stadium
    2 Kansas City 31
    Jan 3 – M&T Bank Stadium 3Indianapolis14
    Jan 10 – Gillette Stadium
    1New England24
    5 Tennessee 20AFC Championship
    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:

    RecordPlayer or teamDate/opponentPrevious record holder [7]
    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, IndianapolisDecember 28, at Houston Gary Anderson, 1997–98 (40)
    Most consecutive road games lostDetroit LionsDecember 21, vs. Carolina Houston Oilers, 1981–84 (23)
    Most consecutive games with a sackTampa 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 allowedDallas Cowboys (2,631)


    Scoring Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (163 points)
    Touchdowns Priest Holmes, Kansas City (27 TDs)
    Most field goals madeJeff Wilkins, St. Louis (39 FGs)
    Rushing Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2,066 yards)
    Passing Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (4,267 yards)
    Passing touchdowns Brett Favre, Green Bay (32 TDs)
    Pass receiving Torry Holt, St. Louis (117 catches)
    Pass receiving yardsTorry 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)


    Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis and Steve McNair, quarterback, Tennessee Titans (As of 2022, this is the most recent season without a consensus MVP)
    Coach of the Year Bill Belichick, New England
    Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis, running back, Baltimore
    Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, linebacker, Baltimore
    Offensive Rookie of the Year Anquan Boldin, wide receiver, Arizona
    Defensive Rookie of the Year Terrell Suggs, linebacker, Baltimore
    NFL Comeback Player of the Year Jon Kitna, quarterback, Cincinnati
    Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Will Shields, guard, Kansas City
    Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Tom Brady, quarterback, New England

    Coaching changes

    Stadium changes

    Tennessee at Green Bay in the preseason; both teams made the playoffs Lambeau Field Warm-Ups 2003 Tennessee Titans.jpg
    Tennessee at Green Bay in the preseason; both teams made the playoffs

    In addition new turf was installed for the following teams:

    New uniforms


    This was the sixth year under the league's eight-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN to televise Monday Night Football , the AFC package, the NFC package, and Sunday Night Football , respectively.

    At Fox, Tony Siragusa joined Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston on the network's #2 broadcast team in a sideline analyst role instead of the traditional sideline reporter.


    1. Gaughan, Mark (March 27, 2003). "Execs Plan Only Minor Procedures". The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
    2. "John Butler (1946-2003)". Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 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 September 1, 2007.
    4. Martin, Susan (January 4, 2003). "Legendary Gillman dies at 91". Buffalo News. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
    5. 1 2 "2003 Conference Standings". NFL.com. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
    6. "NFL Playoff Procedures and Tiebreakers". Yahoo! Sports. December 31, 2006. Archived from the original on January 1, 2010.
    7. "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN   978-1-932994-36-0.

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