Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston lost the ball. He thought he had lost the game, as well.
Winston fumbled as he leaped across the goal line for an apparent winning touchdown and the Cowboys recovered in the end zone with the Bucs trailing 6-3 and just under a minute to play Sunday.
"Great play by Jameis trying to get it in the end zone," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "I'm just glad we got another opportunity."
That's because Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, who had intercepted Winston twice in the game, was called for holding receiver Russell Shepard on the play, and the penalty gave the Bucs a first down at the 1-yard line.
On the next play, Winston faked a handoff to Doug Martin and ran a bootleg to his right, going in untouched for a touchdown with 54 seconds left to give the Bucs a 10-6 win before 64,133 at Raymond James Stadium.
Safety Bradley McDougald, playing on his 25th birthday, intercepted a pass from Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel intended for Dez Bryant in the end zone to end the game.
It was redemption for the Bucs (4-5) and Winston, who saw his streak of 134 passes without an interception — dating to Week 4 — come to an end with errant throws that deflected off the hands of tight end Brandon Myers and receiver Adam Humphries, the last one coming at the Dallas 9.
Center Joe Hawley said there was no doubt Winston would lead the Bucs to a touchdown when they took over at the Tampa Bay 44 with four minutes to play.
"He rallied us. On the last drive, he told us he was going to lead us down, and he did," Hawley said. "That last drive, he said, 'I promise you guys, we're going to get this into the end zone.' "
It was the seventh straight loss for the Cowboys. Since losing quarterback Tony Romo to an injury in Week 2, America's (Most Wanted) Team has failed to win a single game and blown three fourth-quarter leads.
"We made a play where I thought we had turned the ball over and gotten the ball back," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I don't want to talk about the officiating."
Garrett spent most of the past two weeks putting out fires caused by the published photographs of the result of defensive end Greg Hardy's assault on a former girlfriend and Bryant's locker room melt down with reporters.
Sunday, the Bucs bottled up Bryant, who was blanketed by cornerback and former Cowboys teammate Sterling Moore. Bryant was held to five catches on 12 targets for 45 yards. He also failed to hang on to a pass on third and 1, which set up the Bucs' winning drive.
"I should have had that," Bryant said.
Credit Smith for the switch at cornerback to Moore and rookie Jude Adjei-Barimah for holding the Cowboys to a pair of field goals by Dan Bailey.
"Buc ball, that's what it's about," Smith said. "Grinding it out and finding a way at the end. The game gets exciting. Don't leave in the fourth quarter."
Winston made the game closer than it should have been. He finished 22 of 39 passing for 264 yards and the two interceptions. Receiver Mike Evans, who dropped six passes in the previous week's loss to the Giants, abused the Cowboys' Morris Claiborne until the cornerback left the game with a hamstring injury. Evans finished with eight catches for 126 yards and also drew a 45-yard pass interference penalty.
"Mike Evans is not a good player; Mike Evans is a great player," Smith said. "From time to time, a great player may not have a great day. But he came back, worked hard, corrected some things and was a force (Sunday)."
Considering how the game ended — and the wild swings of emotion surrounding Winston's fumble, the penalty flag and his touchdown run — nobody cared to discuss how fortunate the Bucs were to win.
"I forgot about that already," Winston said of the fumble. "The touchdown run was magical, man. Had a great fake, great call, found the way into the end zone."
Smith was just as selective when discussing the ending.
"What fumble?" he said. "There was a play that doesn't go down. There was a penalty on that play, so why are we talking about that?
"How about that last run of Jameis Winston to get it in the end zone to win it? That's what we should be talking about."