The pivotal play of Sunday’s 25-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was not Robbie Gould’s sixth field goal of the day that sailed through the uprights as time expired.
But rather what transpired in the game to allow Gould and the 49ers to even have a chance to try that kick.
The Titans trailed the 49ers, 22-20 with just under four minutes to go when they drove in position for Ryan Succop to make a 50-yard field goal to put Tennessee ahead briefly before Jimmy Garoppolo drove the Niners in position for Gould’s game-winning boot.
On a third-and-2 play with just over a minute to play, the Titans elected to run the ball with DeMarco Murray from the shotgun. The play was blown up by the 49ers defense, and Murray never even made it back to the line of scrimmage.
In his post-game press conference, Mularkey was asked about the call, and said the Titans went with the run to avoid the risk of Marcus Mariota being sacked and being taken out of field goal range.
But the Titans’ best plays of the day had come from Mariota’s arm and mostly in the no-huddle and two-minute offense. The Titans probably could have called safe pass play to avoid a sack, or at least have had Mariota throw the ball away in the face of a rush.
The run game’s success had been spotty most of the day with Murray gaining 59 yards and Derrick Henry barely seeing the field with 19 yards on seven rushes.
Bottom line is that converting that first down would have most likely allowed the Titans to run out the clock and have Succop’s field goal be the game-winner rather than leaving a red-hot Garoppolo just over a minute to set Gould up for the winning boot.