Bengals fall to Bucs, 16-13

Joe Kay and Joe Kay

CINCINNATI – With one deft tug in overtime, John Lynch saved Tampa Bay from a season-wrecking meltdown.

Lynch stripped the ball from Corey Dillon and jumped on it at the 3-yard line, setting up Martin Gramatica’s 21-yard field goal in overtime as the Buccaneers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 on Sunday.

The Buccaneers (6-5) got their first back-to-back wins of the season, but it wasn’t easy. They missed two field goals and had a late defensive collapse that let the bumbling Bengals (4-7) rally for 10 points in the last 4:29.

Dillon caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jon Kitna that tied it with 8 seconds left in regulation, wrestling through tacklers Dexter Jackson and Jamie Duncan to reach the goal line.

Minutes later, Dillon was kneeling on the sideline crestfallen after Lynch made another game-turning play.

The safety had a clinching interception in a 24-17 win over St. Louis on Monday night that revived the Bucs’ playoff chances. After the Buccaneers failed on the opening possession of overtime and punted to the 4, Lynch was in the right place again.

Dillon took a handoff and headed for a hole straight ahead, but Lynch reached in and stripped the ball from his arm, then quickly gathered it in as he lay on the ground.

Dillon knelt on the sideline with his head down, and Brandon Bennett patted his back as Gramatica kicked the game-winner 5:06 into overtime.

Until the closing minutes of regulation, two popgun offenses failed to produce any touchdowns or drama. The Buccaneers’ cornerbacks set up most of their points.

Cornerback Ronde Barber blocked a punt that Todd Yoder returned 11 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, and Donnie Abraham’s interception set up Gramatica’s 48-yard field goal that made it 16-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Gramatica’s miss from 51 yards with 6:23 left in the fourth quarter gave Cincinnati a chance to get rolling. Neil Rackers kicked a 41-yard field goal – the ball deflected off the right upright, but went through with 4:29 left.

After Tampa Bay failed to get a first down, Jon Kitna led the Bengals to their first touchdown in 11 quarters. Kitna was 19-of-38 overall for 144 yards with one interception and the touchdown pass to Dillon.

Brad Johnson completed his first 14 passes – one shy of the club record – and finished 26-of-33 for 231 yards, but the Bengals got a season-high six sacks.

Both offenses self-destructed on a sunny, 51-degree afternoon that favored the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is 6-34 when the temperature is below 50 degrees.