Bengals Coach Explains His Brilliant Illegal Challenge That Won The Game With 26 Seconds Left

The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13 on Sunday after coach Cincy coach Marvin Lewis used an illegal challenge to draw a penalty on Tampa with 26 seconds left.

The Buccaneers had the ball and were driving down the field in the final minute. On 2nd and 15 from the Cincinnati 41-yard line with 32 seconds left, Tampa completed a pass down to the 20-yard line.

As they run up to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball and stop the clock so they could try a game-winning field goal, the Bengals noticed that the Bucs had 12 men on the field during the previous play.

“We are fortunate because we have a challenge person upstairs,” Lewis told MMQB. “He told me about the 12 men. Then it was just a matter of getting it to the officials’ attention.”

Lewis went about getting the officials’ attention is a very peculiar way.

In the final two minutes of the game, it’s illegal for coaches to throw their red challenge flags. All plays in the final two minutes are automatically reviewed, so if you illegally challenge a play you lose a timeout.

But something can only be reviewed if the replay booth halts the action before another play is run. The Bucs were sprinting up to the line as fast as possible to spike the ball. If they got a snap off before the replay booth realised something was up on the previous play, they couldn’t have reviewed it.

The Bucs clearly had 12 men on the field on the previous play:

So Lewis did anything he could to stop the play.

He explained to MMQB:

“I just lost my mind. All I needed to do was call timeout. I was trying to get Bill Leavy’s attention, and at the end I was worried they’d snap the ball, so I just threw the challenge flag.”

He threw his challenge flag, but the ref didn’t see it at first:

So Lewis can over to him and showed him the play, basically calling a penalty on himself:

The Bengals were penalised a timeout, but it was well worth it. The officials ending up reviewing the play, calling a penalty on the Bucs, and moving the ball back out of field goal range to the 46-yard line.

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