Extra player sinks Buccaneers' upset hopes

TAMPA, Fla. -- Just when you think you've seen every possible way to lose a football game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprise you.

Sunday's 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was an appropriate outcome for a franchise that now has 23 seasons of double-digit losses since coming into the league in 1976. The latest loss is up there with any others in the team's history because it came in a home game the Bucs appeared to be on the verge of winning.

Until, of course, they got in their own way. Seattle's fans are referred to as the 12th Man. Tampa Bay fans should be called the 13th Man because they're so unlucky.

Before we get into the ins and outs of how it all fell apart, let's tell you where the Bucs were sitting. With 26 seconds left in the game, Josh McCown completed a pass to Louis Murphy that appeared to give Tampa Bay the ball at Cincinnati's 20-yard line.

All that remained to be done was to let the clock run down to less than five seconds, spike the ball and bring on Patrick Murray for a chip-shot field goal and a victory.

"The script was written right for us to pull it out at the end," coach Lovie Smith said.

But the script got thrown off as the completion to Murphy was wiped out by a penalty for having 12 men on the field. The Bucs had a few shots after that but were unable to get back into field goal range.

"That sums up our whole season," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said.

So what went wrong to result in 12 men on the field?

Smith didn't want to get into specifics. But McCown said the Bucs brought in offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, who had been working as a tight end all day. Rookie receiver Robert Herron was supposed to come out of the game but did not.

Who's to blame? The logical candidates were pointing the finger at themselves.

"Coaching error on our part," Smith said. "We didn't catch it. Kind of as simple as that. Shouldn't happen. Miscommunication. Blame the head coach. Bad move on my part of not seeing it."

But McCown said all the blame shouldn't fall on the coaching staff.

"We can all help out," McCown said. "We were in a bit of a muddle huddle there, getting guys on and off and playing with the extra tackle. The transition of that from going four wides to bringing Oniel back into the game, we've just got to handle it better. I certainly own it. I didn't see it. I called out protections and other things and didn't get my eyes over there to double-check to see where we were at."

Where the Bucs are at is a 2-10 record and last place in the NFC South.

"That's how 2-10 football teams play," Smith said. "We found a way to lose it in the end."