During the Titans' win over the Texans on Sunday, a move by Mike Vrabel proved to be the difference between winning and losing when he used an NFL rules loophole to give his team extra time. With the Titans on defense and trailing by a point with 3:05 left, Vrabel intentionally sent one too many players on the field as the Texans faced second-and-1 from the Titans' 25-yard-line. While the penalty gave the Texans a fresh set of downs, it also saved about 40 seconds on the game clock.
The time saved paid off handsomely for Vrabel and his team. The coach expected the Texans would score on the drive anyway, and while the Texans did increase their lead to seven points shortly after the penalty (they failed on a 2-point conversion attempt), the Titans had just enough time to score the game-tying touchdown when Ryan Tannehill connected with A.J. Brown with four seconds left. The Titans then went on to win the game in overtime while improving to 5-0.
Mike Vrabel is outstanding— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 19, 2020
1. he rushes in 46 late (12th man on D)
2. 33 is WTF
3. penalty for 12men
4. Vrabel fakes upset & brings 46 off
-penalty stops clock
-time > yds
-knows HOU will score
- w :04 left, TEN scores tying TD
- move saved 40 seconds & won game pic.twitter.com/wikWKtGuJD
This is not the first time Vrabel has intentionally played too many players in an attempt to save time. In 2018, with his team in a similar situation against the Jets, Vrabel ran out a 12th defensive player, as the penalty gave the Titans enough time to pull off a come-from-behind win.
Vrabel drew the SAME intentional 12th man penalty in the SAME situation in 2018:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 19, 2020
still had 3 timeouts
opponent had 2nd & short
-stopped the clock
-gave up the first down
-forced a punt
-drove the length of the field
-scored a touchdown
-won the game pic.twitter.com/deUohbbhot
Vrabel, a former linebacker who spent eight seasons with the Patriots, has obviously learned a few things from New England coach Bill Belichick as it relates ways to manipulate the game clock. In fact, near the end of Tennessee's upset win over New England in last year's wild card game, Vrabel actually used the same loophole to save time that Belichick used during a game against the Jets during the '19 regular season. Protecting a one-point lead with under six minutes left, Vrabel took two delay of game penalties that killed nearly a minute of game clock. And after the Patriots jumped offsides, the Titans chewed up more clock before finally punting after using up more than two minutes to run one play. The move helped the Titans leave New England with a 20-13 win.
Vrabel's mastery of situational football is one reason why the Titans are one of three remaining undefeated teams. On Sunday, Vrabel will match wits with Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, whose Steelers are also 5-0 after Pittsburgh manhandled the injured Browns on Sunday, 38-7.