McCardell Shines In Loss
The Tampa Tribune, published 7 October 2003

It was a lifetime performance for Keenan McCardell, the most points he had ever put on the board. One touchdown catch was the longest of his career and his second TD was the type of score he may never come close to repeating again. And thanks to the Indianapolis Colts' dramatic 38-35 comeback victory in overtime, it was all in vain.

McCardell's first score was a good indication of what kind of night it was going to be for the 12th-year pro. On the Bucs' second possession of the game, he found himself wide open on a deep run down the sideline and hauled in a Brad Johnson pass for a 74-yard TD. The catch topped two 67-yarders he scored on during the 1998 and 2000 seasons.

On Tampa Bay's next possession, you knew McCardell was en route to a personal best when he scooped up a fumbled interception by Colts defensive back Mike Doss and shot untouched 57 yards the other way to put the Bucs up 14-0. It was a simple case of being in the right place at precisely the right time - and sprinting while you're doing it. It was the fifth-longest fumble returned for a TD in team history.

Those two scores would have been enough to make for a memorable night for McCardell - or any player. For him, it was his ninth multiple-TD game and third as a Buc. But he wasn't done. And, unfortunately for McCardell, neither were the Colts. With less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter, McCardell scored his record third TD, a 15-yard pass from Johnson.

By comparison to his other scores Monday night, it was mundane. A simple post pattern to the corner of the end zone. But it was new territory for McCardell and it put the Bucs up by a seemingly comfortable margin of 28-7. With one of the league's top defense on his side, McCardell seemed destined to be the player of the game, the man everyone would remember later this year as the Bucs marched on to defend their Super Bowl title.

Instead, it's two Colts players who will burn into the collective memories of fans who stuck around and witnessed the end of the game: quarterback Peyton Manning, who finished with 386 yards - 320 in the second half - and two TDs, and his favorite target, receiver Marvin Harrison, who stung the Bucs' defense for 11 catches, 176 yards and two TDs. McCardell was reduced to shouting at the referees as the game ended, and, along with other Buc players, following the officials toward their dressing room. In a matter of moments, it seemed, his night to shine was over.