With under four minutes to play, the Titans lined up for a 45-yard field goal attempt that would have put them up a touchdown.
But rather than kick, the Titans attempted a fake, with punter/holder Brett Kern taking the snap and running for the first down marker. He was met just before the line by Devin White, who delivered a monstrous hit that knocked the ball out.
Safety Andrew Adams picked up the loose ball and began sprinting towards the end zone with no one between him and a go-ahead touchdown, but the officials whistled the play dead, claiming that Kern had been down before the fumble occurred.
As replays would show, it was the wrong call — the ball clearly came out before Kern was down or stopped short. Unfortunately, replay couldn't help the Buccaneers, as the play had already been called dead and therefore the ball could not be advanced.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was in clear disbelief on the sidelines at the officials' decision.
—NFL (@NFL) October 27, 2019
The Buccaneers would still take over possession but failed to score a touchdown on their drive and ultimately lost the game 27-23.
On Twitter, fans were furious with the sequence and blamed the officials for the game's outcome.
—Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 27, 2019
—NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) October 27, 2019
It's not the first time this season a premature whistle cost a team a game-changing touchdown.
In a Week 2 matchup between the Saints and Rams, an early whistle from the referees on a similar fumble prevented the Saints from an 89-yard touchdown return that would have given New Orleans an early 10-3 lead and could have changed the course of the game.
Since the premature whistle against the Saints in Week 2, officials had tended to let plays go on in similar spots, as referees can call a play back should replays reveal a player was down. But the crew working the Buccaneers game on Sunday apparently didn't get the memo, and it cost Tampa Bay a shot at the win.