The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost yet another close game due to offensive incompetence, including a 12-men-on-the-field penalty wiping out a near-guaranteed win on the final drive.
With all three of their tight ends and their starting center sidelined by injury, the Tampa Bay offense couldn't take advantage of great field position gifted them by a dominant defensive effort. Instead, they consistently settled for field goals on short fields, and put the defense in horrible position throughout the game.
The first half looked like a carbon copy of what we've seen in recent weeks: the Bucs jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the back of a great defensive effort, with the offense getting about one good drive in all game. And once that 10-0 lead was established, the Bucs started their familiar but slightly slower collapse.
Once again, a horrible performance by the offensive line and a chronic addiction penalties were key factors in a Tampa Bay loss. Doug Martin actually had a good game and the Bucs were capable of running the ball, but that still didn't help their offense much. And while the defense played well overall, just a couple of bad defensive drives are enough to sink a team that can't score points on offense.
First play of the game, and Andy Dalton threw the ball inaccurately behind A.J. Green, straight into Johnthan Banks' waiting arms. The Bucs couldn't turn that into a touchdown thanks to a bad snap by backup Garrett Gilkey, but it still gave them a 3-0 lead. And on the next Bengals drive, they forced a three-and-out thanks to Gerald McCoy's ninth sack on the season.
Of course, the offense struggled to take advantage of that defensive dominance, as per usual.
At least things changed a little early on in the second quarter: Doug Martin managed to get a touchdown! In fact, Martin was had his best game of the season by quite some distance today. He actually looked like a competent running back, with shiftiness, a little bit of explosion, and good vision and patience for perhaps the first time this season.
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That didn't give the Bucs more than a 10-7 lead heading into the half, though. The offense was largely incompetent outside of that one drive, and one bad defensive drive brought the Bengals within just a field goal. And they would even have tied the game, had Alterraun Verner not taken the ball away two plays after Josh McCown threw his first interception of the game.
The third quarter wasn't any better for the Bucs offense, which started with two three-and-outs, handing that Cincinnati offense some great field position. On the second try, the Bengals converted with A.J. Green beating Leonard Johnson in the endzone. Yes, Leonard Johnson was covering A.J. Green.
The Bengals then tried a surprise onside kick, but Orie Lemon was alert and prevented that from dribbling into the waiting hands of a Cincy player. Of course, the Bucs offense couldn't convert that one, either.
The Bucs defense continued to give the Bucs offense chances to get back into the game, and the Bucs offense continued to squander them. Two consecutive bad snaps destroyed one drive's chances, despite what was nearly a miraculous catch by Mike Evans -- but he only got one foot down.
And despite that, the Bucs defense just kept at it. They continued to stop Andy Dalton. They continued to give Josh McCown opportunities. But even when McCown and company got to the Cincinnati 41-yard line, just outside field goal range, needing only two points to take the lead -- they couldn't gain even a handful of yards to give Patrick Murray a chance to take the lead.
Week 14: at Detroit Lions, December 7, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers, December 14, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 16: Green Bay Packers, December 21, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 17: New Orleans Saints, December 28, 1:00 p.m. ET