"We just have no killer instinct," Owens finally said after he was pressed about another offensive performance that was less than stellar by 49ers standards.
Then the media throng was on him like sharks.
For the first time this season, Owens intimated that yes, he was displeased with the play-calling or, if you will, the coaching strategy.
"I'm not the only one who felt like that," he said. "For whatever reason, we did what we had to do. ... It wasn't my decision. I had to go with what was called. It's really like I said - it's just no killer instinct."
On the scale of T.O. popping off about play-calling, that was pretty tame. But it was also thinly-veiled. And Mariucci spent a lot of time on Monday defusing the sparks that seemingly are close to igniting another Owens tirade.
"There's no relapse. There's no fester," Mariucci said when asked if he was concerned about a relapse into the old days between he and Owens, such as their acrimonious, running feud throughout last season. "I think any receiver would be frustrated not to get as many catches as he's used to. It's just a normal reaction. He's used to production and teams are really making a concerted effort (to stopping him). It's understandable a guy would get frustrated because he wants to contribute."
Mariucci knows it goes much deeper than that. When pressed about T.O.'s comments and the potential that his frustration will become a major distraction like it was last season, Mariucci continued to drift into generalities about the offense and team in general.
Mariucci tried to make it sound like T.O.'s comments were no big deal. He knows better. He also indicated it's a situation that will be nipped in the bud, that he and Owens now have a cordial relationship with open lines of communication. That may be so.
During the bye week, Mariucci needs to make sure it is so. Because it's obvious by now that even a tempered T.O. is a combustible element waiting to burst. Whether he likes it or not - or admits it or not - Mariucci controls the forces that could push Owens over the edge.