There's a reason why winners are only determined after you play a game.
On paper, the Cincinnati Bengals had everything in their corner against a reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in Week 13 of the 2014 season. Talent, quarterback play and a myriad of other factors had the check marks almost unanimously in Cincinnati's favor.
However, the Bengals were likely tired after being on the road for three of the prior four weeks and the flu bug hit major players, including quarterback Andy Dalton. Rumor had it Dalton was throwing up in trash cans all night prior to the game and continued to do so up to kickoff. And, boy, did it show. Dalton had three interceptions in the game, including one while in the red zone, keeping Tampa Bay in a game they probably didn't deserve to be looming around.
Luckily, the Bengals' defense was stout on the day, allowing just 13 points and 263 total yards. Though Dalton struggled, he did account for both Bengals touchdowns--one through the air and one on the ground. Even so, nothing was consistently working on offense for Cincinnati, as evidenced by their paltry five yards per offensive play on the afternoon.
And then came the wacky fourth quarter. After clinging to a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Bengals' defense appeared to finally be on the ropes. Josh McCown and Co. began their march down the field and into possible game-winning field goal position. McCown hit Louis Murphy for a back-breaking 21-yard pass play with 12 seconds remaining in the game. It was setting up to be a loss so Bengals-ish in nature, wasn't it?
Except Marvin Lewis had done his homework. The Bengals' coaching staff attempted to challenge the play after noticing there was one too many Buccaneers players on the field. They were told they couldn't do so as there was less than two minutes remaining in the game. But, Marvin Lewis knew that, he is on the competition committee after all. Thankfully, the flag did what it was meant to do and alerted the officials to there being one too many men on the field.
No 21-yard pass play, no first down, no field goal position and, the Buccaneers moved back five additional yards with the time taken off the clock. McCown couldn't rally the team behind a 4th-and-20 and the Bengals retained possession and won the game.
"Ugly" and "resilient" could be two adjectives used to describe this Bengals win. Cincinnati won two more games on the season and gained a Wild Card berth. Even how borderline unwatchable this matchup became at times, the Bengals still achieved a franchise milestone with the win: it was the first time they won one three consecutive road games as a team.
If there were lessons learned, they were to take no opponent lightly and to always pay close attention to what is occurring on the field at all times. Though the former wasn't achieved, the latter was and it ultimately helped the Bengals leave South Florida with a win.