Bucs coach Bruce Arians blasts officials for quick whistle in Titans loss

After stopping a fake field goal and forcing a fumble, a touchdown was erased when the play was blown dead.
Tennessee Titans kick holder Brett Kern (6) is brought down by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White on a fake field goal play in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans kick holder Brett Kern (6) is brought down by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White on a fake field goal play in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. [ JAMES KENNEY | AP ]
Published Oct. 28, 2019|Updated Oct. 29, 2019

TAMPA — A quick whistle that erased a fumble return for a touchdown is also what blew the game for the Bucs on Sunday, coach Bruce Arians said.

One day following the Bucs’ 27-23 loss at Tennessee, the Bucs coach ripped officials for not seeing that punter Brett Kern, the holder on the Titans’ fake 46-yard field goal attempt, lost the football when he was tackled by linebacker Devin White.

Safety Andrew Adams scooped up the football and returned it for a touchdown, which would have given the Bucs a 30-27 lead with 3:41 remaining. But line judge Mark Stewart ruled that Kern was down by contact. Replays showed he had lost a fumble.

“Not to beat a dead horse, but an inadvertent whistle, if we had those last three minutes and change with a three-point lead and win the game, I think everybody is writing different stories, talking different things,” Arians said Monday. "So, it was more than just a play. You know, everybody except one guy saw the ball out and blew a quick whistle.

“My biggest thing is, you know, referees aren’t held accountable. Coaches get fired, general managers get fired. Players get cut. Referees aren’t accountable and it’s a shame. It’s been that way for 40 years and now that we’ve got a new agreement, it will be that way for 40 more years."

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The NFL contacted the Bucs Monday about the early whistle that cost the Bucs a go-ahead touchdown on the fumble recovery, according to a report on ESPN. Al Riveron, the Senior Vice President of Officiating for the league, did something similar last week after taking responsibility for two egregious calls against Detroit defensive back Trey Flowers that may have cost them a win over the Packers.

Whistle mania has hurt the Bucs before.

Arians pointed out another critical call in 31-24 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 6. Tight end Antony Auclair forced a fumble on a Saints punt return. Tampa Bay recovered but the replay review determined that there was no clear recovery.

Arians said officials are supposed to let the play continue on a potential turnover rather than stop play.

“That’s the emphasis. Now two out of three (games), for us, we get turnovers that we don’t get,” Arians said. "We get the ball. Now we still should’ve taken the ball and scored a touchdown and won the game. ... We should’ve won the game already or had a chance to win it.

"In New Orleans, I was told to challenge it because they knew we had the ball. But when you go back on replay, it wasn’t a clear recovery. So it’s like, again, it was an inadvertent whistle. So why does it continue?

“Since the Rams-Saints game the second week, when the Rams got the touchdown they didn’t get, there’s been an emphasis to let the plays go. If you can, answer why it’s happening? I don’t know?”

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Arians got support from wife Christine and son Jake who each weighed in on social media.

“NFL officiating needs (a) fundamental fix," Christine Arians wrote on Twitter. “It does not need poorly-trained part-time officials who suffer no consequences for not doing their jobs. Instead, we get new collective bargaining agreement. Shame on you Roger Goodell."

Jake Arians predicted the only thing that will come of Sunday’s blown call is a fine from the NFL for his father for criticizing officials.

“This is so out of hand, the NFL has to do something about this," Jake Arians wrote on Twitter. “The officials are told to let the play go and get it reviewed but no crew has any consistency with the rules if they know what they are. NFL fix this mess. You’re ruining our beloved game letting this mockery count.

“Nothing will come other than a fine coming for speaking the truth. Damn shame."

Arians didn’t blame the loss completely on the referees. Turns out, he made some bad calls himself.

The Bucs had four turnovers — two interceptions and two lost fumbles — as well as an inadvertent collision between their own players near the goal line.

“On the game itself, we had turnovers early in the ball game, poor red-zone offense and poor red-zone defense," Arians said. “(We had) poor coaching in some of those situations, especially offensively."

Trailing 14-6 in the second quarter and facing third and goal from the Titans’ 4-yard line, receiver Breshad Perriman collided with running back Dare Ogunbowale for a loss of 2 yards, forcing the Bucs to settle for Matt Gay’s third field goal.

Arians said the poor execution belonged to quarterback Jameis Winston, who blew the timing on the play.

“We screwed that up in practice," Arians said. “We fixed it. We liked the play. I should’ve vetoed that play."

Needing a touchdown to win and facing fourth and 1 at the Titans’ 32-yard line, running back Peyton Barber lost a yard and the Bucs turned the ball over on downs with two minutes remaining in the game.

“It wasn’t blocked properly and we didn’t get to the (middle) linebacker," Arians said. “Again, part of it was design, part of it was the play, part of it was our execution and I’ll take it for that one.

“The fourth-and-1 play ― again, that’s on me. Not on (offensive coordinator) Byron Leftwich. That’s on me. To have a better chance of being successful in those two situations, those are both on me."