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Cincinnati Bengals escape Tampa Bay with 14-13 win over Buccaneers

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The Cincinnati Bengals went into Tampa Bay and escaped with a 14-13 win over the Buccaneers. It was ugly. There was panic. They still won. The Bengals (8-3-1) return home next Sunday and host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The issues Cincinnati faced in the first half didn't necessarily translate into the second. Well, not completely. Andy Dalton's propensity for turnovers was explosive in the first half, concluding with three interceptions and a 10-7 deficit when half time showed. Cincinnati's defense applied a bend-but-don't break mentality, culminating in a Doug Martin touchdown to give Tampa Bay an early 10-0 lead. Then when it mattered most, Cincinnati flexed their ravishing biceps.

Dalton, who was dealing with flu-like conditions overnight (he was given two IVs and was excused from team meetings Saturday night), applied more ball security and made the big throws when necessary. In the final two quarters, Dalton completed 12 of 16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown... he completed 9/11 for 79 yards in the third quarter alone.

Eventually the Bengals staged a game-winning touchdown drive, capped by A.J. Green's 13-yard touchdown reception, with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter. Attempting to catch Tampa Bay off-guard, Cincinnati kicked the onside but the Buccaneers recovered. Tampa kicked a field goal but Cincinnati maintained their 14-13 lead.

Both sides exchanged punts until the Bengals had third and 11 from their own 19-yard line with 2:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Andy Dalton chucked the football deep down the right sidelines where James Wright hauled in the football for a first down.

Aside from gaining a first down, the conversion forced Tampa Bay to use all of their time outs. Because everyone realized they were going to run to milk as much clock as possible, Cincinnati eventually punted after a series of runs and a third down pass that fell incomplete. Kevin Huber's punt traveled 45 yards into the endzone and the football was brought back to the 20-yard line with 2:01 remaining in the game.

McCown hit Bobby Rainey on a running back screen. Thanks to a missed tackle, Rainey gained 29 yards and reached the Bengals 36-yard line with 44 seconds remaining.

Tampa lost 10 yards on an offensive hold where the Buccaneers had second and 15 from the 41-yard line. McCown found Louis Murphy for a 21-yard reception when Cincinnati called a timeout with 12 seconds remaining... they challenged the play, but since they're not allowed, they were forced to use a timeout anyway.

The officials reviewed the play and Tampa was caught with having 12 men on the field during the 21-yard pass.

Bengals Formation

They were forced back to the original line of scrimmage (the 41-yard line) and then had five yards added... to the Bengals 46-yard line.

McCown threw two straight incomplete passes before he nailed Mike Evans with a 13-yard pass on fourth and 20. The turnover on downs gave Cincinnati the ball and the knee from victory formation gave them the win.

Cincinnati improves to 8-3-1 and maintains their hold on first place.

FIRST HALF DEFICIT AND THREE INTERCEPTIONS

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton launched the football toward A.J. Green on the first offensive play of the game. Either the football sailed or Green ran his route incorrectly... the football was intercepted by Jonathan Banks.

Thankfully the Bengals defense didn't give an inch. Well, they allowed five yards on two plays but an Anthony Collins false start put Tampa back to the ten-yard line on third down. After a fumbled snap, Carlos Dunlap wrapped up quarterback Josh McCown for the sack. Tampa took a three-point lead on the ensuing field goal. Cincinnati responded with a three-and-out that was capped by a third down sack by Gerald McCoy (who beat Clint Boling).

It wasn't a good first quarter and one may conclude that the second quarter featured something similar. Cincinnati's offense had an interception and two punts in the first quarter -- the first punt was the result of a three-and-out. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, scored their first touchdown of the afternoon on a seven-yard touchdown run by Doug Martin with 12:00 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The maligned Bengals offense, after an interception (that led to a game-opening field goal for Tampa Bay) and two punts (the first was a three-and-out), finally strung together positive momentum midway through the second quarter. The Bengals, which opened their second quarter offense from their own 22-yard line, reached Tampa's 20-yard line. Dalton takes the snap and heaves it deep towards the front left pylon, targeting a double-covered A.J. Green.

Tampa Bay punted back to Cincinnati after the pick, who received the football from their own 36-yard line with 5:11 remaining in the second quarter. Cincinnati strung together an eight-play drive, gaining 60 yards (plus four yards of penalties) to reach Tampa's five-yard line. Dalton faked the handoff (read-option), and scored the touchdown to reduce Tampa Bay's lead 10-7.

Yes. Momentum.

Then with 51 seconds remaining in the first half, Terence Newman intercepted a Josh McCown pass to give Cincinnati the football at Tampa Bay's 46-yard line.

Dalton completed the four-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu and... didn't call a timeout? The clock ticks from 46 seconds, when the play started, to 25 seconds, when the next play was snapped. There was three timeouts being pocketed by the team, but whatever...

On the next play, Dalton threw the football into the air like a hitting coach training his fielders on how to catch a baseball in the outfield. Tampa Bay didn't threaten a score and the first half comes to a conclusion.

Dalton completed 7 of 11 passes for 62 yards passing in the first half. And of those four incomplete passes, three were interceptions. One could argue that only one interception (the first) lead to points for the Buccaneers... but Cincinnati actually lost points on the succeeding two interceptions because they were driving on Tampa Bay's side of the field.

THE BENGALS TAKE A LEAD

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense had come to a complete crawl. During their opening two possessions of the third quarter, Tampa failed to generate a first down and went three-and-out in both possessions. Credit goes to the Bengals defense, right?

In the meantime, the Bengals punted (after a six-play drive that generated a first down but nothing else) before receiving the football back at the Bengals 37-yard line. The Bengals pieced together a 10-play possession, spanning 63 yards with Andy Dalton completing a 13-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.

Since then, the Bengals have gone three and out in every possession.

THE VINES

BENGALS BUCCANEERS
DE Margus Hunt LB Lavonte David
LB Vontaze Burfict TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
WR Greg Little TE Brandon Myers
RB Rex Burkhead TE Luke Stocker
CB Chris Lewis-Harris OL Evan Dietrich-Smith
OL Jamon Meredith DT Clint McDonald
OL Tanner Hawkinson CB Crezdon Butler