TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Michael Clayton extended his arms and lunged toward the end zone, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first victory literally at his fingertips.

Clayton’s 8-yard dive was a touchdown – barely – lifting the previously winless Bucs to a 14-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals with 35 seconds remaining Sunday. The reception was initially ruled incomplete but was overturned after a replay, which showed the ball firmly in Clayton’s hands as he flew through the air.

The Bengals (3-2) thought they had won when the receiver put the nose of the ball over the goal line on the fourth-down play, then lost control when he landed on the ground. Referee Mike Carey reversed the call, setting off a wild celebration on the home sideline.

The winning TD capped a rollercoaster performance for rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, making his second start for Tampa Bay in place of the injured Chris Simms. The sixth-round draft pick also threw a 2-yard TD pass to Alex Smith, but spent much of the day looking like an the inexperienced player he is.

Carson Palmer threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Shayne Graham kicked two field goals for Cincinnati. The Bengals marched into Bucs territory in the closing seconds, but Graham’s 62-yard field goal attempt as time expired was short and off the mark.

The Bucs (1-4) avoided their first 0-5 start since 1996 and snapped Cincinnati’s 8-game winning streak against NFC opponents.

Gradkowski completed 25 of 44 passes for 184 yards and one interception. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams rushed for 94 yards on 19 carries, including a 38-yard burst that set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown in the third quarter.

The Bucs drove 54 yards in nine plays after a punt for the winning score. Gradkowski had a 15-yard completion to Clayton and pair of 10-yarders to Michael Pittman, and benefitted from a questionable roughing-the-passer call against Bengals defensive end Justin Smith.

Despite averaging nearly 25 points in their first four games, the Bengals entered their bye week following a lopsided loss to New England concerned about a lack of consistency on offense. Palmer’s production is down, Cincinnati has not been able to get Chad Johnson into the end zone as much as usual and injuries on the offensive line have affected pass protection and the running game.

The Bengals were held to one touchdown and 13 points for the second straight game.

Palmer finished 24-of-37 for 261 yards, no interceptions and two sacks. Houshmandzadeh caught his TD pass over All-Pro cornerback Ronde Barber and finished with 10 receptions for 102 yards.

With receiver Chris Henry beginning a two-game suspension for violating NFL policies on conduct and substance abuse, Johnson had his best game of the season for the Bengals with six catches for 99 yards, including a 51-yarder – his longest reception of the year – to set up a 47-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.

AP-ES-10-15-06 1710EDT


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