OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - With a chance to take a stranglehold on the AFC North race, the Cincinnati Bengals reverted to their old Bungles ways and lost to the hapless Oakland Raiders.
Bruce Gradkowski threw a 29-yard game-tying touchdown pass to Louis Murphy with 33 seconds left and Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 33-yard field goal after Andre Caldwell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Raiders a 20-17 victory Sunday.
Coming off wins over division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals were unable to continue the momentum against a team that had won one of its last eight games.
"We better learn a hell of a lesson, because we paid a hell of a price today," coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Bengals (7-3) have lost all 10 games in Oakland, including one playoff game. But this had to be one of the most painful.
Cincinnati maintained its one-game lead over Pittsburgh in the AFC North after the Steelers lost in overtime at Kansas City, yet this loss could prove critical to seedings or even a playoff berth down the stretch. The Bengals scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives, but managed only three more points the rest of the way. They were done in by three lost fumbles, eight penalties and a missed field goal.
"Coach Lewis talks about it all the time, stealing games on the road, beating people you shouldn't beat, and the good teams beat the teams they should," receiver Chad Ochocinco said. "And this is one of those teams, no disrespect to them, but this was a game we should have won."
The win was especially emotional for the Raiders (3-7), who had dedicated the game to former teammate Marquis Cooper, who died in a boating accident this year. Cooper's wife, mother and daughter were on hand and will be presented the game ball from the victory.
"Before the game his daughter said she was excited to watch the game. She said, 'I get to see my daddy play!"' linebacker Sam Williams said. "Man. I just spread the word and everybody felt the emotions of that. It was special."
Oakland rallied from an early 14-point deficit and trailed 17-10 with 2:06 left and the ball at the 20. Gradkowski, who took the starting job from JaMarcus Russell this week, threw a 19-yard pass to Zach Miller, then a 16-yarder to Chaz Schilens on fourth-and-10. After a spike, Gradkowski found Murphy near the goal line. Murphy got loose from Morgan Trent and dived across the goal line for the tying score.
"As a team, we're not really known for fighting back, and we came back," Murphy said.
Just when it seemed the game was headed to overtime, Brandon Myers forced a fumble on the kickoff return, giving the Raiders the ball at the 17. After three kneel-downs, Janikowski delivered the winning kick, setting off a celebration in the crowd of 34,112.
Nnamdi Asomugha intercepted a last-ditch pass from Carson Palmer to seal the victory. Palmer completed 14 of 22 passes for 207 yards and became the first Bengals quarterback to run for two touchdowns in a game since Jack Thompson in 1979.
Rookie Bernard Scott ran for a season-high 119 yards in place of the injured Cedric Benson.
"We came out today and didn't play well enough to win," Palmer said. "It's not something we need to sit around and talk about. The point is we lost. Anybody is capable of beating you on any day of the week no matter how good you think you are. When it comes down to it, you have to make plays and beat teams you're supposed to beat, and we didn't do that today."
Gradkowski replaced Russell in two of the past three games, but was unable to lead a single scoring drive. He did plenty with an entire week to prepare, giving the Raiders their first two-touchdown game since the opener. He connected on a 10-yarder to Miller in the second quarter and then the tying TD to Murphy. He finished 17 for 34 for 183 yards, with two turnovers, including an interception with 6 minutes left that almost cost Oakland the game.
"We're just fortunate the defense did a great job, got the ball back," Gradkowski said. "We made a couple plays and that's it."
NOTES: Larry Johnson had two carries for 5 yards in his debut for the Bengals. ... The attendance was the smallest in Oakland since a crowd of 30,738 for the season finale against Buffalo in 1967.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)