Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 - November 30, 2014


When the NFL schedule first came out, Week 13 was to be my visit to TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota. Then my friend Eddie suggested the Columbus Day weekend for the Vikings and thankfully I listened as I also saw the Golden Gophers and avoided a brutally cold game this past weekend. Next, I considered San Diego at Baltimore for my Week 13 tilt as another friend had recently located to Charm City and I thought I would visit him on Thanksgiving weekend. But he was out of town then, so that plan was quickly quashed. Then I booked my Florida trip and figured I'd drive up from Tampa to Jacksonville for the Giants and Jags. Only when I looked at the schedule further did I notice that the Buccaneers would be home as well, playing the Bengals to boot, so I finally decided on that tilt, which promised to me more interesting than another Jaguars loss.



The weather was perfect, 76 degrees and sunny, as you can see above. I had to drive to the game as I had plans to race to Orlando afterwards to see UCF basketball, so I parked in Lot 13, the cheapest at $15 but also one of the easier lots to exit. By the way, $15 is the total amount I paid for parking on my entire 2013 trip to all 32 stadiums (I had a press pass here in Tampa then) but there is little you can do in Tampa to avoid the parking charge when you are no longer a member of the media.

I bought a ticket from a scalper which had me at midfield on the west side of the stadium behind the Buccaneers bench. This is the side to choose if you want to avoid the sun in your eyes for those 1 pm games, and the Bucs know this, charging more for west side seats.



I was expecting a blowout but Cincinnati was awful. Andy Dalton (below) threw a pick on the first play from scrimmage, one of three he tossed in the first half. Tampa Bay is also awful though, and despite starting first and goal from the 9, could only come away with a field goal. On that drive they committed a false start penalty (1 of 13 for them on the day) and Garrett Gilkey, making his first start at center, snapped the ball along the ground on the next play, netting himself the first of two fumbles. Despite this early ineptitude, the Buccaneers managed a touchdown on a nice nine-play, 71-yard drive, capped by a Doug Martin (#22 above) 7-yard scamper. Up 10-0, Tampa Bay was looking for an upset, but Dalton scored on a 5-yard keeper to complete a 4-minute march near the end of the first half to keep the Bengals alive.



Near the end of the third quarter, Dalton connected with A.J. Green on a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati the 14-10 lead, but Tampa replied with a field goal early in the fourth to set up what could have been a pretty exciting finish. But it wasn't. Bizarre and annoying, but not exciting. Remember how I was hoping to get to Orlando for that basketball game starting at 6? I had planned to sneak out of this one a bit early, but it was not to be as neither team could muster any offense.  I can't leave a game that has yet to be decided, so I watched as both teams continued to play horrible football. The next five possessions resulted in punts, and Tampa Bay started at their own 20 with 2:01 to go and a chance to win. Amazingly, they started to move the ball, highlighted by a 29-yard pass and run play from Bobby Rainey that moved them to the Bengals 36 with 44 seconds to go. A Cincinnati penalty (they had 10 of their own) move the ball to the 31 and it looked like the NFC South might get a rare win over the AFC North. Then Gilkey committed a stupid holding penalty on a run. Bye-bye field goal position.

After an incompletion, Josh McCown found Louis Murphy over the middle and Murphy gained 21 yards to the Cincy 20. Hello field goal position! Oh wait, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has thrown a challenge flag. But he can't do that! There are less than two minutes in the game! The play went under review anyway. By the way, it was now 4:00 and I was itching to get out on the road to Orlando, but I couldn't leave without seeing what was about to happen. Finally, the referee announced the ruling: Tampa Bay had too many men on the field! Yes, Lewis threw the flag to delay the game a bit and give the booth a chance to review the play, which showed the poor Buccaneers had played the last snap with 12 men. Sorry, Tampa Bay, this ain't the CFL! The 5-yard penalty pushed the Bucs back to the Cincinnati 46. Bye-bye field goal position. McCown threw two incompletions and on 4th and 20, threw a 13-yard completion to Mike Evans. Game over.



I raced to my car to try to make it to Orlando, which I did eventually. You'll have to read about that in the next post though.

Notes

Adam "Pacman" Jones (below) is the Bengals punt returner and he has a reputation for not calling fair catches. On two occasions he was demolished, leading him to call for a fair catch on the next punt, ending a streak of 96 straight punt returns without calling for a fair catch.



The NFC South did get a win that week, with New Orleans beating Pittsburgh. Overall, they are 2-11-1 on the season against the AFC North.

Three games finished with a one-point differential on this day - the second time that has happened in NFL history. Interestingly, the other two were San Diego at Baltimore and the Giants at Jacksonville, two games I had considered visiting previously.

Best,

Sean

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