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Mohamed Sanu third down reception led to game-winning touchdown

We always focus heavily on the scoring plays and try to factor non-scoring performances as much as possible. However, was there a more important non-scoring play than Mohamed Sanu's third down reception in the third?

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In a new series we're trying... we ask you on Twitter which play you want us to break down and we'll (hopefully) do it for you. Let's do this (and if you're on Twitter and want plays broken down, give me a shout... well, don't shout. Be nice):

By this stage in the game, we hadn't actually witnessed a strong offensive performance; the game was heavily reliant on Cincinnati's defense. Tampa Bay focused heavily on Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, while Andy Dalton was fighting flu-like conditions that would have had most of us calling off work and sucking chicken noodle soup through a straw. How certain can we be that Dalton wasn't purposefully made sick by devious agents? After watching Game of Thrones, is anyone above suspicion anymore?

Save for Andy Dalton's touchdown sprint midway through the second quarter, the Bengals' offense had gone: Interception, punt, punt, interception, touchdown (Dalton's run), interception and punt. Things weren't gelling together and despite a 2-10 record this season, the Buccaneers have a more-than-serviceable defense -- especially as of late.

The situation was third and six from the Buccaneers 30-yard line with 3:35 remaining in the third. Cincinnati had received the football at their own 37-yard line, thanks to a battle of field position that forced Tampa Bay to punt from their own three (and nearly secured a safety a few plays earlier).

A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu were wide right (Sanu in the slot). Jermaine Gresham played from his three-point stance as the left tight end and Brandon Tate was several yards outside of his left shoulder. Giovani Bernard flanked Dalton's left.

Sanu third down

Dalton fired the football to Sanu, through a small window, just beyond the first down marker. Not happy with just a first down, Sanu shed away from cornerback Alterraun Verner (it was zone coverage but Verner was closest) and reached the Buccaneers' 15-yard line. It took three defenders to bring down Sanu. Dare I say... Sanu blew up Alderaan? Get it? Yea, some of you do.

Sanu Buccaneers GIF Sanu

After a pedestrian two-yard run by Bernard, Dalton led Green into the endzone for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter. It would end up being the game-winner. And to think... had Sanu not converted the third down, Cincinnati likely would have attempted a 40-yard plus field goal to tie the game at 10. Imagine how different things would have turned out... probably no onside kick, huh? :)