One truly is the loneliest number.
Bengals 14 – Bucs 13
The Bengals didn’t so much win this game as Tampa handed it to them, pausing only long enough to put it in a nice box with a ribbon and a bow on top.
Yep, it was a one-point loss. It also was one additional player Tampa had on the field during a critical play late in the game as the Bucs were maneuvering into position to possibly take the lead. I mean, I can understand the temptation to sneak some extra help into the lineup when you think nobody’s looking. The trick is to maybe disguise them by dressing them up in the other team’s uniform, or as the mascot or a cheerleader. Something.
It’s not like the Bucs didn’t have their chances. Tampa’s defense snagged three interceptions off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to kill Cincinnati drives and keep things close, but the Bucs offense was only able to notch three points off those turnovers. However, one of those interceptions did nullify a pick thrown by Tampa QB Josh McCown on the previous drive. Otherwise? When your punter logs almost as much yardage as your total offensive production, that’s usually not going to end up being a good day, amirite?
With the Bengals leading 14-13 and time winding down, McCown had one last chance to rally the Bucs and snatch away the win. He had guided his offense all the way to the Cincinnati 20-yard line–well within field goal range–with twelve seconds remaining on the clock. That’s when the penalty gremlin smacked Tampa for the 13th and final time on the day, as the Bucs had completed the prior play with an extra tackle lurking among them. The Bengals sideline saw him, though, as did the referees, and upon review, the play was nullified and the yardage gained erased. That, plus the extra penalty yards moved the ball back to the 41, and Tampa eventually ended up blowing a 4th Down conversion with but one lonely second left to play.
The loss drops Tampa to 2-10 and adds another double-digit losing season to their rather rocky history. Elsewhere in the NFC South, New Orleans won over Pittsburgh despite a late Steelers rally, Atlanta won over the Arizona Cardinals, and the Carolina Panthers continued their high swan dive into oblivion. Next up for the Bucs? On the road to Detroit to take on their old-time NFC Central Division rival Lions.
I guess Tampa’s just playing the role of spoiler at this point, as Detroit is still very much in the playoff hunt. As for the Bucs themselves, until today there was math that showed they could still win the NFC South. If any of that still exists, then it likely involves black holes or parallel dimensions where math and physics and other timey-wimey stuff works differently than it does here.
Somebody let me know if any of that turns up, okay?