NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers believed they had picked up a crucial first down Sunday, only to be told it was fourth-and-inches.
But after what happened next, the Bucs really wish officials had measured to see how much they needed.
Quarterback Josh Freeman fumbled the snap, recovered the ball but only managed to get back near the line of scrimmage with 40 seconds left. Officials then ruled Tampa Bay had turned the ball over on downs, and the Tennessee Titans ran out the clock for a 23-17 victory.
Coach Raheem Morris, whose Bucs (4-7) lost their fifth in a row, asked for a measurement but was denied.
"You shouldn't have to ask," Morris said. "It is what it is. When you do ask, they tell you they don't have to give it to you. They just give it to you automatically (in) third downs and critical situations."
Freeman had just connected with LeGarrette Blount on a 9-yard pass play to the Tennessee 25. Freeman said he first believed the Bucs had picked up the first down, and he was preparing to spike the ball, only to be told it was fourth-and-inches.
"So I'm like, 'Shouldn't it be measured?' " Freeman said. "The ref was like, 'Play it,' so I tried to call a sneak. Enough time had already run off the clock. I was just trying to get a first down. They didn't have a chance to dry the ball off or anything, so it was just a mess."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press