Refs blow whistle early, cost Bucs late go-ahead TD in Titans win

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Somehow, NFL officials still haven’t learned to not blow the whistle early.

A blown call cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a late go-ahead touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Fake FG does not go well

With 3:47 remaining, the Titans lined up for a field goal while leading 27-23. Instead of holding the ball for a kick, Tennessee punter Brett Kern took the snap and ran left in an attempt to pick up a first down.

He did not make it.

Officials blow whistle, call

Bucs linebacker Devin White leveled Kern, forcing a fumble that safety Andrew Adams picked up with a clear path to the end zone. As Adams ran for a would-be go-ahead score in the game’s final minutes, whistles blew.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 27: Head coach Bruce Arians of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yells to his players during the first quarter of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Officials very likely cost the Bucs a win on Sunday. (Getty Images)

The play was dead. Officials failed to acknowledge the fumble, instead calling Kern down short of the line of gain for a turnover on downs. The Bucs got the ball, but no score.

Replay shows a clear fumble.

Tampa Bay drove the ball 39 yards, but came up short on a fourth-and-1 with two minutes remaining. The Bucs got one more chance when the Titans punted with 49 seconds. But the game ended when Jamies Winston threw a second-down interception with 26 seconds remaining.

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Referee’s explanation

NFL officials tweeted an explanation and didn’t offer much other than “the runner was ruled down by contact.”

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“Certainly after the whistle, we definitely saw the ball come out,” referee Adrian Hill said in a postgame pool report. “But the ruling on the field was that the runner was down by contact before the ball came out. That’s why the whistle blew. The whistle was blown because the ruling was that the runner was down by contact.”

Hill’s statement didn’t add much to what was obvious from watching the play.

How does this keep happening?

The play is reminiscent of a Week 2 fumble that was blown dead in the Rams-Saints game. A would-be Saints touchdown return was negated when officials blew the whistle dead on a Jared Goff fumble.

In the end, that call didn’t matter much as the Rams rolled to a 27-9 victory.

But Sunday’s early whistle likely cost the Bucs a win. A touchdown wouldn’t have sealed the game, but would have given them a clear edge with a late lead.

Instead the Titans won their second straight with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback to improve to 4-4 while the Bucs dropped to 2-5.

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