Shutting down the blog, 6:36 p.m.
As I have both Web site and newspaper obligations, I'm shutting down the blog for the night.
Check in here at Bucsblitz.com later for a complete wrapup of the game, which will include my game story and notes, the game summary, grade book and photo galleries. Also, don't forget to stop by the chat room at 10 p.m. EST to talk about the game and what the Bucs need to do next week against Tennessee, and what they may need to do beyond next week to salvage what has been a great start for them.
Bucs get a TD, 6:24 p.m.
The Bucs drove down the field and got a touchdown, courtesy of a pass from Jeff Garcia to Alex Smith. It was their second TD connection of the day. Smith's TDs seem to come in bunches, don't they?
It's 30-14 Colts and the kickoff is coming.
Manning closing in on Unitas, 6:12 p.m.
He won't catch him today, but Peyton Manning needs three touchdown passes to catch Johnny Unitas' Colts franchise mark of 288 touchdown passes.
Colts put it away, 6:10 p.m.
Peyton Manning just hit Reggie Wayne for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter. And I was just thinking Wayne had been quiet most of the day. The Bucs came with a full house blitz and Manning and Wayne just beat Phillip Buchanon in single coverage.
The Colts now have a 23-point lead. The Bucs offense has gone three-and-out five times entering their next possession early in the fourth quarter. The Bucs had five total yards in the third quarter. Ugh.
The Bucs are getting a taste of reality this week. I think the big storyline next week will be whether they can bounce back against a Titans team that is better that you expect, especially on defense.
Time of possession, 6:03 p.m.
The Colts have a near 2-to-1 edge in time of possession as the game prepares to enter the final quarter. The Bucs probably can't get out of Indy fast enough. They won't have to come back until 2015, if my calculations are correct.
This Bucs defense is worn out heading into the fourth quarter. The holes for Colts RB Kenton Keith are becoming cavernous. Keith has 112 total yards as the third quarter winds down.
To the fourth quarter we go.
Expect Colts to keep running, 6 p.m.
Since they have a 16-point lead, I would expect the Colts to keep running the football as much as possible. It appears as if Tony Dungy's gamble of keeping Marvin Harrison, Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai inactive is going to pay off. Now all of the injured Colts will get three weeks of rest before their next game, since next week is a bye for the Colts (that number includes this previous week ramping up for the Bucs game, since most of those injured players didn't practice).
It's safe to say the Bucs did not maintain the level of play they have the last three weeks. In fact, this performance may be a big step back in some regards.
BTW, Bucs DE Greg White has a shoulder injury and his return is questionable. He likely won't play as this game is getting out of hand.
What Bucs need to do now, 5:52 p.m.
I'd forget about winning this game if I'm Jon Gruden. What I want do now is make sure my team has some positive momentum going into next week. They need to establish a running game, move the chains and gets some positive yardage. This team excelled the past three weeks by maintaining possession on offense, thanks to a great run game. They need to find a way to get back to that.
The absences of Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman are having a big impact in that regard. Pittman was deemed questionable after his ankle injury, but I've heard nothing more since then.
Colts make it 23-7, 5:50 p.m.
Kenton Keith walked in for a touchdown for the Colts. There were flags on the play, but both penalties — yes both penalties — were against the Bucs. Ronde Barber knew the Bucs were in trouble on that play and tried to call time out, but he didn't get it called in time.
That's like a dagger for the Bucs. Jon Gruden can go ahead and start planning for the Titans, if he likes.
Time of possession key, 5:48 p.m.
The Bucs wanted to be the team that won the time of possession battle today. But the Colts are just pounding away in that regard. This opening drive of the third quarter has lasted nearly seven minutes and the Colts are still driving. People forget the Colts are able to do this, too. They focus so much on the explosiveness of the offense. But they can pound away as well as any team in the league.
And all Jon Gruden can do on the sideline is scowl and hope the Bucs defense holds them to a field goal.
Nothing bothers this guy, 5:45 p.m.
Patrick Chukwurah finally got to Peyton Manning on that previous play, but Manning was elusive enough to evade Chukwurah and still get a nice pass to Reggie Wayne on the sideline.
He's just too good for this Bucs defense, no matter how well it's been playing. Of course, what do you expect from a quarterback who takes his PRACTICE film home with him each night?
Anemic on the ground, 5:41 p.m.
The Bucs had six net rushing yards in the first half, a horrible total given the amount of key injuries the Colts have defensively. Certainly, the Colts front four, led by Dwight Freeney and Raheem Brock, has had something to do with that. They've done a great job of getting penetration, especially up the middle of the field, which is exactly where the Bucs want to run.
First-half summaries, 5:27 p.m.
Bucs offense: The offensive line settled down after a sluggish start. The running game is getting nowhere against a defense that should be vulnerable. Jeff Garcia has the big run of the day. Garcia has been efficient and his TD pass came on nice play action that should not have worked, given the anemic run game. The Bucs need to hold on to the ball more and give their defense a better chance and limit Peyton Manning's possessions.
Bucs defense: Took a big hit on the opening two drives, but Gaines Adams' blocked extra point and Tanard Jackson's interception emboldened the unit a bit until that final drive of the half, when the Colts drove down to score. They're in a bad position because the offense isn't giving them a lot of help, in terms of time of possession. They also haven't been able to get enough consistent pressure on Manning to make a difference. To win, this unit has to force more turnovers.
Colts get field goal, 5:26 p.m.
The Bucs were lucky to escape that last drive of the half by only allowing a field goal. The Bucs offense has to do a better job of possessing the ball or the defense will never get enough going to make a difference. It's 16-7 at halftime.
Gaines Adams on ground, 5:20 p.m.
Bucs DE Gaines Adams is now on the ground with an injury. This is less than a quarter after they Bucs appeared to lose DE Greg White. After four weeks of relative good health, the injury bug appears to be rearing its ugly head.
Adams walked off under his own power, which is a good sign.
Needed that catch, 5:15 p.m.
Joey Galloway needed to make that catch on third and 7 deep in Bucs territory, but he dropped it. That was the second straight drop for the Bucs. Now they're punting and giving the ball back to Peyton Manning with about two minutes left.
This will be a big test for the Bucs defense. They need to hold the Colts scoreless here.
Manning is frustrated, 5:12 p.m.
A holding penalty set the Colts back and the Bucs defense did the rest, forcing a punt.
There appears to be some miscommunication between Manning and some of his receivers, most specifically running back Kenton Keith. That led to some frustration on the face of Colts QB Peyton Manning, which is a rarity, frankly.
Manning should calm down, because he's not getting much pressure from a Bucs front four that's being handled ably by the Colts offensive line.
Bucs have the ball at their own 20 with about three minutes left. They cannot turn it over, especially since the Colts get the ball first in the third quarter.
Clark back, 5:05 p.m.
Obviously Tanard Jackson only run Dallas Clark's bell on that big hit, which sounded just as devastating as it looked.
Bucs get a TD, 5 p.m.
Jeff Garcia went on a designed rollout and threw to Alex Smith for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 13-7 with 6:43 remaining in the second quarter.
This is exactly what the Bucs needed after watching the Colts take a 13-0 lead. They used the momentum from Tanard Jackson's big hit, and his interception, to get good field position and take it down the field for a score. That could be the turning point of this game.
And they carted Michael Pittman off the field after that ankle injury. Pittman's demeanor is that of a player with a serious injury. This could force the Bucs hand on making a trade next week for a back.
Pittman on the ground, 4:56 p.m.
Michael Pittman's ankle may be hurt. Trainers are looking at right now. That's a horribly-timed injury.
The Bucs better hope its not serious, because if it is than it's Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby the rest of the way.
Jackson nails Clark, then picks pass, 4:48 p.m.
Bucs rookie safety Tanard Jackson just laid out Colts TE Dallas Clark — I mean laid him out — on a crossing route.
It was a vicious, but it would appear to be legal, hit by Jackson. He did not lead with his head. He got his shoulder squarely between Clark's head and his right shoulder, and Clark was in obvious pain as he laid on the ground.
First, everyone hopes Clark is all right. Second, if that hit takes Clark out of the game, that could be a big shift in how the Colts do things offensively. That would leave them without Clark and Marvin Harrison. It would be interesting to see how the Colts compensate for the loss of two of their best receivers.
And then Jackson just picked off Peyton Manning downfield, a rare mistake by the Colts QB. Part of the return is coming back thanks to a block in the back, but it's a big turnover for the Bucs.
Bucs punt again, 4:43 p.m.
The Bucs go three and out for the third straight drive. They can't get anything going against this Colts defense, which appears to have compensated well for the losses of MLB Rob Morris and S Bob Sanders. Those losses were supposed to be liabilities for this defense.
Not today. The Colts get the ball again. Can the Bucs stop them from scoring this time?
Adams gets a hand on it, 4:41 p.m.
Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams got his hand on Adam Vinatieri's extra point, giving him his first career blocked kick.
Colts taking early control, 4:39 p.m.
Kenton Keith's 1-yard touchdown run with 14:53 left in the second quarter just made it a 13-0 game for the Colts. The score was the first of Keith's NFL career. The Bucs blocked Adam Vinatieri's extra point.
That pass interference call on Ronde Barber on the preceding play probably should have been illegal contact.
This isn't looking good for the Bucs right now. The Colts defense is playing inspired football, and the Colts have a two-touchdown lead. Remember when I wrote earlier this week that this game wasn't necessarily about winning and losing, but more about maintaining the level of play that allowed the Bucs to win three straight games?
This is what I was talking about. That level of play, on the first two drives at least, has vanished.
White hurt, 4:28 p.m.
Bucs defensive end Greg White went down after the Colts converted a fourth down on a run. The look on Jon Gruden's face afterward was priceless. It was like Chucky reborn.
Hopefully his injury isn't too serious, as he's been a great story this season and provided a nice rush off the end in spots this season.
Bucs punt again, 4:20 p.m.
Tampa Bay went three-and-out on their second drive.
As expected, Bucs left tackle Donald Penn looks overmatched against Colts end Dwight Freeney. Perhaps Penn will get more comfortable as the game goes on. The Bucs are also doing a poor job of blocking left tackle Raheem Brock, so the Colts are really taking advantage of the inexperience on that left side with Penn and left guard Arron Sears, a rookie who is making his fifth start.
Colts O start game with TD, 4:14 p.m.
Mark my words: Dallas Clark is going to have a huge day today. He's going to work underneath all day.
And Clark took Peyton Manning's pass in the area you would see a screen and he takes it down for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Colts less than five minutes into this.
That's typical Colts football — take good field position and efficiently drive for a touchdown.
The Bucs better get it going on offense quick or it's going to be a long day.
Bucs start game on offense, 4:08 p.m.
The Bucs go three and out and have to punt.
Dwight Freeney got his first sack on third down but it's not totally on left tackle Donald Penn, making his first NFL start. Freeney started on the right side and looped around to the left around an already occupied Penn. Great defensive call.
Torrie Cox, in his first game of the season, made the hit on the Colts punt returner, but only after he got the Colts into Bucs territory.
I liked the idea of the Bucs going on offense to start the game. It worked last week against Carolina, as the Bucs went down the field and scored, quieting a loud Panthers crowd. But it didn't work out.
Starting void, 4:03 p.m.
The Colts are without three starters on each side of the ball, which makes this team about as vulnerable as it's been in the past few years.
I'm still taking the Colts, though. No quarterback makes as much of a difference for his team in terms of pure offense than Peyton Manning. He'll get whoever is out there in the right reads.
I'd be more worried about the defense without safety Bob Sanders. The difference when he's in the game and when he's not in the game is about 40 yards in rushing allowed.
We're about to get started.
Gameday inactives, 3:05 p.m.
Here are the inactive players for today's game:
No big surprises for Indy. The absence of Sanders, plus middle linebacker Rob Morris, should allow the Bucs to produce on the ground.
I didn't expect the Bucs to make Davis inactive. They did so, obviously, to get Torrie Cox on the field. The Bucs activated Cox on Saturday and released Donte Nicholson. Cox's speed should make the special teams coverage units a little better.
And, rookie Kenneth Darby is active as the third running back. It's not clear if he'll see any plays outside of special teams.
Next week's opponent, 1:50 p.m.
I'm watcing the Tennessee-Atlanta game right now, and I'm impressed with the Titans defense, which the Bucs will sample next week when they return to Raymond James.
This unit is only giving up 15 points per game — seven points fewer than last season — and features one of the best run stuffing units in the NFL. Albert Haynesworth — who became the poster boy for bad on-field behavior last year after stepping on Cowboys center Andre Gurode with his cleat — is the key in the middle to stopping the run.
The Falcons had minus-3 yards in the first quarter. Ugh.
I'm looking forward to watching this game more in-depth next week, specifically to dissect exactly how the Titans use Vince Young at quarterback. The Titans also appear to be running the ball very well. FOX just broadcast that the Titans run the ball 73 percent of the time on first down.
Dungy's Bucs, 1:40 p.m.
There are only four Buccaneers remaining from the Bucs-Colts 2003 game at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night — defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and cornerback Brian Kelly.
That game, naturally, featured the Colts scoring 24 points in the final quarter — 21 in the final four minutes — to force overtime and win, 38-35.
They are also the only four active Bucs left from the Tony Dungy regime in Tampa, which ended after the 2001 season. Fullback Mike Alstott, on injured reserve, also played for Dungy.
June's hard choice, 1:30 p.m.
June told ESPN he couldn't stand the conflict of being Manning's former teammate.
He also told ESPN he thought the Buccaneers defense could shut down Manning.
There aren't many that would agree with June on that second point, including me.