Titans coach Mike Vrabel knows a thing or two about how the Patriots do business. And Vrabel used that knowledge to get the most out of his players when the time came to face the Patriots on Sunday.
“The biggest thing I told them is that we have to be more physical than the Patriots in all three phases,” Vrabel told PFT by phone on Sunday after the 34-10 win over New England. “If they gain yards, they have to beat you. We can’t give them easy yards. We have to exceed their operation and execution.”
The approach entailed adjusting when the Patriots adjust, with sufficient preparation to instill a mental “flow chart” that allowed the players to know what they needed to do in response to whatever the Patriots did. Vrabel particularly wanted to limit the “easy access throws” by Brady, where he makes a quick throw for a good gain with little overall effort. Early in the game, safety Kenny Vaccaro made a big tackle on a quick throw, and it helped set the tone that the simple yards wouldn’t be there in the passing game.
The Titans also were able to apply a lot of pressure to Brady. That’s been the recipe for more than a decade, but not many teams can properly mix the ingredients. Vrabel said that the key is “having guys who can execute” the plan to get to Brady and reduce his available time to throw the ball.
“Everything I brought to them they were receptive of,” Vrabel said.
As to the former Patriots who now play for the Titans, Vrabel tried not to stoke that emotion but to reel it in. He wanted “no personal agendas” during the game.
“I tried to talk to them about that not making a difference,” Vrabel said.
With the Titans now 2-0 since the bye, one specific technique has made a difference for the team. Vrabel said that during the bye the coaches went to each player with one concrete way in which they need to improve. It has worked well, and the Titans now find themselves in position to make a run at the division title, a single game behind the Texans with seven games to play.