TAMPA, Fla. -- Sloppy but victorious, Cincinnati extended its slender lead in the AFC North with help from a 12th man.
Dalton threw three first-half interceptions and Cincinnati (8-3-1) overcame 10 penalties and an ill-advised onside kick that helped Tampa Bay stay in the game to win on the road for the third consecutive week.
That's a franchise first that seemed improbable following a lopsided home loss to Cleveland a month ago.
"We had, obviously, the turnovers offensively that led to scores, we had penalties on defense that kept drives alive, and those are things we overcame," Lewis added. "They're going to show up once in a while, but we seemed to have them all today. ... We kind of got in our own way all day."
As poorly as the Bengals played, though, Tampa Bay (2-10) committed the biggest blunder of the day - a penalty in the closing seconds for having too many men on the field. The infraction overturned a 21-yard pass completion that would have moved the Bucs into position for a possible game-winning field goal.
It was the last of 13 penalties called against them.
"That's how 2-10 football teams play. They find a way to lose it in the end," Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said. "When you make dumb, stupid penalties like that throughout the game, it will bite you at the end, which it did."
The Bengals lead the tightest division race in the NFL, with a 1½-game lead over each of their AFC North rivals. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland all lost Sunday.
As Tampa Bay scrambled to line up and spike the ball, an animated Lewis came off the sideline and threw the red flag to challenge the previous play.
Officials initially announced the Bengals could not challenge, because coaches are not allowed to request any in the final two minutes. The replay official, however, had already decided to look at the play, and found the Bucs indeed lined up with 12 players.
"The guys upstairs were saying it right from the start, before they snapped the ball. ... We were trying to match up the personnel and there was one too many," Lewis said.
McCown said the Bucs had an extra tackle on the field. The quarterback didn't notice, and neither did Smith.
"We were in a bit of a muddle-huddle there, and guys were on and off. ... We've just got to handle it better," McCown said.
"Blame the head coach. Bad move on my part, (I) didn't see it," Smith said. "We had 12 guys on the field. Can't happen."
The ball was moved back to the 41, where a 5-yard penalty was added and an additional 14 seconds were added to the clock. Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs with a second left.
"It was a crazy drive, kind of stressful," said Dalton, who said he became ill late Saturday and was up most of the night before the game. "For them to have 12 guys on the field, that's not something you see all the time, but fortunately for us it happened."
McCown completed 15 of 29 passes for 190 yards and one interception. He was sacked once.
"As the game went on, I started to feel better," Dalton said. "I'm not going to make any excuses for the way things started out. It obviously isn't something that you want to deal with, but I'm not saying that's the reason things came out the way it did."
NOTES: Johnthan Banks, Brandon Dixon and Alterraun Verner had Tampa Bay's interceptions, but the Bucs were only able to turn them into three points - a first-quarter field goal after Banks returned Dalton's first pass of the game 32 yards to Cincinnati 9. ... The Bengals snapped a six-game losing streak in a series Tampa Bay leads 7-4. It was their first win over the Bucs since a 56-23 rout at home in 1989. ... Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin led Tampa Bay with 58 yards rushing on 18 carries. The Bengals have allowed just over 71 per game on the ground the past three weeks.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press