With 25 seconds left in the game, Carson Palmer attempted a deep box-in pass to Chad Ochocinco that would have given the Bengals an attempt at a long field goal, roughly over 50 yards, below Mike Nugent's career best of 54 yards. And the way Nugent was going, a completed pass, perhaps another play or two with a timeout still in Marvin Lewis' pocket, the Bengals, even though the game was tied, truly controlled their own destiny.
Instead, Chad Ochocinco couldn't haul in a pass that he's easily caught in the past, eventually deflecting into the hands of safety Sabby Piscitelli, who returned the football 31 yards to the Bengals 34-yard line.
With 14 seconds left in the game, Josh Freeman took the shotgun snap and heaved a pass down the right sidelines to Michael Spurlock. With both feet down, Spurlock caught the pass while falling out of bounds. As he contacted the ground, the football was coming out.
It's not entirely unlike Calvin Johnson's touchdown reception that was reversed into an incomplete pass.
Without the reception, Tampa Bay's Conner Barth would have been forced to convert a 51-yard attempt, a distance not entirely unachievable considering Barth's longest field goal is a 54-yarder. Yet, a 51-yard field goal attempt is slightly harder than the eventual game winning field goal from 30 yards out.
The booth reviewed Spurlock's reception and upheld the call. Don Banks writes that the Bengals were hosed. Peter King questioned it, writing "It looked like the ball moved in his hands as he fell earthward, and the Bengals called time to allow for the virtual certainty of a booth review."
Pro Football Talk writes that the call cost the Bengals a win.
Replays showed that Spurlock, who was falling as he made the catch, failed to maintain possession of the ball once he struck the ground. So after further review, the call on the field of a completed pass would be overturned, right?
The call inexplicably stood, and on the next play the Bucs kicked the game-winning field goal.