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 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, 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
"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



Main article: 2003–04 NFL playoffs

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.

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 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)


Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis and Steve McNair, quarterback, Tennessee Titans
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
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
Tennessee at Green Bay in the preseason; both teams made the playoffs

In addition new turf was installed for the following teams:

New uniforms


  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. ^ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.