On Sunday, RB Doug Martin looked more like the 2012 breakout star he was a rookie than at any other point this season. Martin had 55 yards on 12 carries by halftime and he scored the Buccaneers' lone touchdown on an eight-yard run in the second quarter. A penalty on the far side of the field erased his 28-yard run in the first quarter and the Bucs found little opportunity to give him the ball after halftime, so Martin's final totals – 58 yards on 18 carries for an average of 3.2 – seem a bit underwhelming. Still, with the passing game finding very little traction in the first half and the Bucs trying to cobble together a make-shift attack without any of their usual tight ends or fullbacks, it was Martin's purposeful running that allowed the team to take a 10-7 lead into the intermission.
Play of the Game
Despite all the drama that unfolded over the final 17 minutes of game time, it was WR A.J. Green's 13-yard touchdown catch with two minutes left in the third quarter that proved to be the winning score. The Bucs' defense could have forced Cincinnati to settle for a game-tying field goal but QB Andy Dalton threw a perfect seam pass that got to Green just as he came uncovered behind Buccaneers CB Leonard Johnson. There was a small window for the pass to work but Dalton threw a precise pass that one of the best receivers in the NFL was able to haul in with little difficulty, even with Johnson in his field of vision.
In a perfect world (from the Buccaneers' point of view) the turning point would have been Bobby Rainey's 29-yard ramble on a screen play late in the first quarter. That play got the home team into field goal range but with roughly 40 seconds to play there was time to get it even closer for rookie K Patrick Murray. Unfortunately, the turning point actually came moments later, and it happened between plays. After WR Louis Murphy caught a 21-yard pass that put the ball at the Bengals' 20, the Bucs rushed up to run a spike play to stop the clock. It appeared likely that the next snap would be a 38-yard field goal attempt by Murray. Instead, a replay review – perhaps initiated by the Bengals trying to throw a challenge flag when it is not legal to do so – showed that the Buccaneers had 12 men on the field for the play that led to Murray's big catch. Instead of first down at the 20 it was second-and-20 at the Cincinnati 46, and the Bucs never again got close enough for Murray to give it a shot.
It Was Over When
A second-down pass in the direction of WR Robert Herron fell incomplete after the 12-men-on-the-field penalty put the Buccaneers in a second-and-20 hole. Had the Bucs gained 10 or 15 yards on that play, they could have used third down to spike the ball and then tried a long field goal on fourth down. Instead, they were put into a third-and-20 situation with 19 seconds to play that essentially demanded they either complete a 10 to 15-yard pass on the sideline or gain another first down. The odds were long against that, with the Bengals' defense fully aware of the situation, and what followed was an incompletion and an underneath pass that fell seven yards short of the sticks.