Bucs' D doesn't fear Manning, Colts

Updated: October 6, 2003, 11:46 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's Keenan McCardell caught two touchdown passes and returned a fumble 57 yards for third score, leading the Buccaneers to a 28-7 advantage over the Indianapolis Colts after three quarters on Monday night.

McCardell's last touchdown was his prettiest, a toe-dragging grab of 15 yards along the end zone's right sideline with 1:14 left in the third quarter. He started the game's scoring with a 74-yard TD early in the first quarter. The touchdowns were his only catches of the game.

Tampa held a 21-0 lead at halftime following Brad Johnson's 3-yard scoring pass to Reggie Barlow early in the second quarter. Johnson was 20-of-30 for 273 yards.

Indianapolis finally scored on Peyton Manning's 37-yard TD pass to Marvin Harrison with 13:05 remaining in the third quarter. That scoring connection was their 63rd, tying the Colts record previously held by Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry.

Manning was 16-of-21 for 151 yards one week after throwing for six touchdowns at New Orleans.

Indianapolis, missing tailback Edgerrin James (back) for the second straight week, was held to 193 yards of offense by Tampa's NFL-leading defense -- 86 in the first half.

On the Buccaneers' first play of their second possession, McCardell ran a post pattern into the coverage of linebacker Rob Morris. Indianapolis' pass rush forced Johnson to step up in the pocket, prompting both men to slow down and the two Colts safeties to move upfield. Johnson recovered and his bomb was caught by McCardell in stride after Morris slipped.

After the Colts punted on the ensuing possession, Johnson's deep pass for Joe Jurevicius was intercepted by strong safety Mike Doss. As Doss passed midfield, Tampa center John Wade punched the ball away and it bounced directly to McCardell.

The Buccaneers' third score was the work of Johnson, who dived for a first down early into the 71-yard drive and completed all four of his passes for 46 yards.

Before McCardell's second receiving touchdown, the Buccaneers had to overcome 30 yards in penalties on its 12-play, 85-yard drive. The play before the score, Barlow managed to hang on to a 10-yard catch despite a nasty hit by Walt Harris.

This has been one of the most highly awaited games of 2003 ever since the NFL released its schedule in the offseason, and the teams' combined 6-1 start has only fueled the anticipation.

Dominating the hype -- despite both teams' best efforts to play down the storyline -- has been Colts coach Tony Dungy's return to Florida, two seasons after the Buccaneers fired the winningest coach in their history and won the Super Bowl the following year.

Dungy, 54-42 with four playoff appearances in six seasons leading Tampa Bay, brought in most of the players and coaches who won the Buccaneers' first-ever championship, and 23 of his players remain on the roster. But he never tasted the fruits of his labor; on the receiving end of the jubilant water cooler soaking in January was Jon Gruden, whom the Buccaneers paid dearly for in order to hire him away from Oakland as Dungy's replacement.

Still, Dungy is remembered fondly in Tampa. When his name was announced in pregame introductions, the sellout crowd at Raymond James Stadium responded with a warm ovation.

In Indianapolis, Dungy is working another successful reclamation project. He is 14-6 in a season-plus, and the Colts were off the their first 4-0 start since 1996.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index