NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey says the NFL called how referee Jeff Triplette’s crew handled a late fourth down in Tennessee’s 24-21 loss to Oakland a “poorly officiated play.”
Mularkey said Monday officials missed both a false start by Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree and offensive pass interference in the end zone by receiver Andre Holmes on the two Titans defenders breaking up the pass. Instead, Titans cornerback B.W. Webb was flagged for holding on the other side of the field, and Oakland scored the winning touchdown two plays later.
“So I vented my frustration about that, and they said if you guys have any questions on that, call them, because they said it was a poorly officiated play,” Mularkey said. “It should never have even started, the play never should’ve started.”
Titans cornerback Perrish Cox immediately started pointing when Crabtree bobbed his head, usually a dead ball foul that would have pushed Oakland back to fourth-and-13 at the Tennessee 41.
Mularkey, now 1-3 as interim coach, said he asked league officials what he could tell the media minutes later, and was told to refer questions to the league. But the NFL declined to comment to The Associated Press, saying by email the league does not comment on conversations between the officiating department and teams.
This is Mularkey’s third stint as a head coach, and he said he had not heard such strong wording before when talking to the NFL about officiating. Mularkey declined to comment when asked if league officials need to be disciplined for mistakes.
“I know how we feel as guys, as coaches and players and organizations and owners, I know how we feel the emotional letdown, OK?” Mularkey said. “Do they ever feel how we feel? Do they understand what’s affected? That’s what I want to know.”
Adding to the Titans’ pain over that fourth-down play, Webb insisted after the game he didn’t touch Cooper. Replays of Webb on that play were distant and unclear, but Mularkey said he didn’t see Webb restrict the receiver when watching the play again on tape.
The Titans (2-9) have lost nine of their last 10 games, and this was the fifth by six points or less. They led 21-17 in the fourth quarter, making this the fourth blown-lead in the final quarter this season.
Mularkey made it clear the Titans had other chances to win this game, but failed to execute.
Rookie Marcus Mariota was intercepted with 43 seconds left when receiver Kendall Wright was bumped and didn’t continue running his route. An interception that could have been taken for a touchdown was dropped. A sack and interception also cost the Titans chances at two field goals.
“Obviously it’s tougher to take when you do lose closer games when they’re right there in your reach,” Mularkey said. “I think it’s harder, it’s more frustrating and more disappointing on somebody than when you went out there and you actually got beat. So I think that’s the emotions that we have going on.”
The Titans also have lost 11 straight at home, tying them for the third-longest such skid in NFL history and three losses shy of tying the dubious mark held by the 1988-89 Dallas Cowboys and 2008-10 St. Louis Rams. They host Jacksonville (4-7) on Sunday.
Currently, the Titans are in position to draft No. 1 overall April 28, which would be the first for this franchise since the then-Houston Oilers took Earl Campbell with the top selection in 1978.
“There’s no pointing fingers at anybody,” Mularkey said. “It’s all of us. We’ve had chances to win these games. That’s what you want when you step on the field.”