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Marvin Lewis' illegal challenge leads to Bengals victory vs. Buccaneers

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' illegal challenge against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers initially looked like a boneheaded move, but it stalled the Buccaneers' drive, leading to a Bengals win.

In the waning seconds of Week 13, things did not look good for Marvin Lewis' Cincinnati Bengals. They were leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13, but the Bucs had the ball on second down at the Cincinnati 41-yard line and were driving. Then, Tampa Bay QB Josh McCown completed a 21-yard pass to receiver Louis Murphy, and the Bucs looked to be just seconds away from upsetting the Bengals.

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There was one problem with that play, though -- the Bucs had 12 players on the field. Bill Leavy's officiating crew missed the extra man on the field (not a huge surprise if you've watched Leavy's crew this season), and it looked as if Tampa Bay would get away with one. With the ball at the Cincinnati 20-yard line, it would be a chip shot for kicker Patrick Murray.

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Not so fast, though -- Lewis challenged the play, a move that looked to be boneheaded at that time, but turned out to be brilliant. The challenge came within the final two minutes of the half, and since that's the purview of the replay official (who also didn't call for a review at first), it cost the Bengals a timeout, an important penalty given that the Bucs were without one. But Lewis' challenge apparently woke up the replay official, who did review the play again. The call was overturned, forcing the Bucs back near midfield on the (ultimately) correct penalty ruling.

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Tampa Bay was pushed back to the Cincinnati 46, and after two McCown incompletions and a 13-yard pass to Mike Evans on fourth down, the Bengals took over with one second left in the game. Despite three first-half interceptions from Andy Dalton, the Bengals walked away with the victory and remain on top of the AFC North with an 8-3-1 mark, while the Bucs spoiled a perfect opportunity for a win that would have cheered up their dismal season.