Titans used a Bill Belichick clock management tactic against him

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In October, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged exploiting a loophole in the rules to run extra time off the clock in the fourth quarter of a win over the Jets. On Saturday night, the Titans did the same thing to the Patriots.

Thanks to NFL rules that re-start the game clock after a penalty, the Titans, while leading in the fourth quarter, took a delay of game penalty to take 40 seconds off the clock before punting, then false started with one second remaining on the play clock to take another 39 seconds off the clock. After that the Patriots helped the Titans by jumping offside, which allowed the Titans to run even more time off the clock. By the time the Titans finally punted, the clock had gone from 6:35 when the Titans initially faced fourth down to 4:50 when the ball was actually punted.

Belichick said after the game that the Titans’ strategy to use penalties to take time off the clock was the same one he had used.

“We’ve talked about this before. It’s the same thing we’ve talked about before. There’s no change,” Belichick said.

In October, Belichick pointed out that the way he had taken penalties was a loophole in the rules that should be fixed.

“It was just the way the rules are set up. We were able to run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything. That’s probably a loophole that will be closed and probably should be closed but right now it’s open,” Belichick said in October.

There are limits to how teams can exploit this loophole: With five minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter, it doesn’t work because penalties always stop the clock inside five minutes. And if the Titans had done it a third time, they could have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which would have cost them 15 yards of field position and stopped the clock. But until the rules change, it’s undeniably a smart strategy, one that Belichick has now both used successfully and had used against him.

66 responses to “Titans used a Bill Belichick clock management tactic against him

  1. I wouldn’t change it. 5 minutes is a fair line…besides if you do change it then all those penalties will stop the clock and 3 hour games are now longer.

  2. Love seeing how mad Bill was getting on the sidelines while this was taking place.

  3. And to think if Belichick wasn’t trying to rub it in to the Jets in a game that was a blowout, Vrabel may not have been aware of this loophole. It was hilarious watching Belichick cussing his head off on the sidelines when the tactic was used against him. I bet he regrets his display of arrogance in October. Ah but alas, what comes around, goes around. It is Vrabel smirking now when it counts.

  4. Last night confirmed one thing in my mind; something I vividly recall immediately after the Titans beatdown of the Patriots last season: Mike Vrabel should without question be the man who replaces Coach Belichick when he hangs up his whistle.

  5. I loved watching him blow up on the sideline. He thought it was funny when he was the smartest guy in the room in October. Not so much now, having it used against himself in a critical moment. Sweet!

  6. The encroachment by the defense was inexcusable there. Can’t do that and win playoff games.

  7. harryglyphics says:
    January 5, 2020 at 6:02 am
    Never understood why if a team gets a delay-of-game penalty why that time isn’t put back on the clock…


    There is always a yin and a yang to each rule so to speak. It is like a Safety, if you didn’t give the other team the ball back, you would just take the 2 pts and get better field position.

    If the clock is running out and you delay of game, it could be advantageous for the team with the ball to get that time back.

  8. It’s a strategy that makes a lot more sense up at least 9 points (2 scores). Vrabel has nothing to gain by doing that in a 14-13 game with 5 minutes left and the game very much in limbo. I understand they won but it didn’t have much to do with his strategy.

  9. All penalties should stop the clock. I’m sure there’s a downside but problem solved.

  10. What’s to stop this happening on every punt in the area between the 40’s during the rest of the game. If the penalty is only called on the delay of game, why not run 4 false starts in a row? 20 yards isn’t a huge penalty, and the punter might get it back anyway. The only defense would be calling the time out, which would also be a win for the punting team.

  11. Never understood why if a team gets a delay-of-game penalty why that time isn’t put back on the clock…

    What? So if a team can’t get a play off in time and gets penalized, they should be given the time back? I understand in this case it hurt the Pats but if you plan to give the time back, why bother penalizing them in the first place?

  12. Just leave it alone, the Titans just as easily been screwing themselves out of time they needed for a comeback if the pats had scored

  13. Well then that is a fitting way to end a season. Watching him was hilarious. Message to Bill…you’ve been exploiting loopholes for 20 years. About time you got a taste of it.

  14. He was very angry. Looked like he was saying more to the refs than, “we’ve talked about this before”. All is fair in love and war. What goes around comes around. While I admire and respect belicheks erudite prowess with regards to the rulebook, I’d be lying if i said it didn’t bring me pleasure to see it used against him.

  15. Well, he was able to expose his genius tactic to get that really important win over the Jets in a close game.

  16. This move showed how little confidence Vrabel had in his offenses ability to score. They were playing a defensive game at this point even on offense. Giving the Patriots the least amount of time possible to score and trusting the defense was a smart move. It was quite obvious that in this matchup both teams defenses outmatched their offenses. If Henry wasn’t an absolute beast the Titans would have been totally screwed.

  17. I understand the rule, but it was the Tennessee defense that stopped the Patriots. Taking all that time off the clock could have worked against the Titans. All Brady needed was a field goal, and Tennessee wouldn’t have had time to come back. But their defense rose up and made plays. Mike Vrabel has done a lot of great things to be in the position they’re in, especially with a journeyman QB that nobody thought was any good. Maybe it was a good trick, but that’s not why they won.

  18. Credit to Vrabel. I think he’s becoming by far one of the best coaches in the league.

    Once again the Titans were well prepared and did a great job.

  19. I don’t like it. Taking 3-4 penalties slows down the game. I’m not blaming TN, it’s a loophole, good for them using it. But I expect it will be corrected.

  20. That punt to the 1 foot line is what killed the Pats. The thing that slows down games are penalty reviews and TV time-outs. That 1:40 was game action.

  21. It didn’t matter much. Patriots had the ball again and didn’t score and then had a passing third down they couldn’t stop to get Brady the ball back with time. That should have been enough to take the lead.

  22. Easy fix. Stop the game clock on the 2nd consecutive pre-snap penalty by the offense.
    BTW, it worked for Tennessee in this scenario but could have backfired if the Pats were able to get a FG instead of punting on their posession.

  23. grant35 says:
    January 5, 2020 at 9:52 am
    How sweet is was to see Brady lose at home??


    2009, 2010, 2012. It happens. Hopefully he comes back and has one more run left in him. If not, then it’s certainly been a lot of fun watching him play and win games all these years. He snatched victory from defeat a lot of times. Just couldn’t get it done this time.

  24. When Belicheck used it on the Jets, he was all smiles and giddy about himself. I remember saying at the time, why would he use this in a blow out, save it.
    He wasn’t all smiles and giddy last night, sometimes it backfires when you try to show people you think you’re the smartest guy in the room.

  25. It was especially entertaining watching Belichick’s indignation over the Titan’s series of clock burning penalties. I didn’t really understand Vrabel’s strategy there, but the stunt did serve to turn the game into a do-or-die final possession (in essence) for the Patriots, which caused Edelman to CHOKE (nice catch, dude) and put the ball back in the Titan’s court. Vrabel must have known the Titans would win the game regardless of the approach, so he made the decision to mess with Belichick (get into his head) just for the fun of it. That’s pretty darn hilarious, in my view. Thank you, Coach Vrabel. 2020 is off to a fantastic beginning.

  26. correct me if i’m wrong but didn’t the Pats have 1rst and goal at the 1 yard line earlier in the game and couldn’t get a TD. that is what cost them the game not Vrabel’s coaching.

  27. joepaknew says:
    January 5, 2020 at 11:34 am
    correct me if i’m wrong but didn’t the Pats have 1rst and goal at the 1 yard line earlier in the game and couldn’t get a TD. that is what cost them the game not Vrabel’s coaching.
    It was a highly coached up defense that killed the Patriots’ goal-to-go at the one opportunity. Who is the head coach? Vrabel? Thank you.

  28. oepaknew says:
    January 5, 2020 at 11:34 am
    correct me if i’m wrong but didn’t the Pats have 1rst and goal at the 1 yard line earlier in the game and couldn’t get a TD. that is what cost them the game not Vrabel’s coaching.

    7 0 Rate This


    Pats also held Tannehill to a 61 rating, 50% passing for 72 yards which might be a playoff record, not to
    mention winning the turnover battle with the Harmon int.

    Time to send Brady and McDaniels packing. They essentially sabotaged entire season and let the team down. Horrible playcalling and Brady leadership all year.

    They knew Henry running without any passing game could not
    beat them, except Brady forgot to show up again.


  29. joepaknew says:
    January 5, 2020 at 11:34 am
    correct me if i’m wrong but didn’t the Pats have 1rst and goal at the 1 yard line earlier in the game and couldn’t get a TD. that is what cost them the game not Vrabel’s coaching.
    It might not have been Vrabel’s clock management that won the game, but I’d bet he had something to do with preparing his defense for that goal line stand, and knowing what to expect from the Patriots. But I’m not correcting you because overall I agree with you. The Patriots couldn’t score on that defense.

  30. Still a great coach, but BB makes blunders all the time. Don’t put Edelman back late to receive punt? Smart punter dribbled the kick to eat time off the clock. Nice move BB. Just perfect seeing Brady throw the pick 6.
    You guys thought Patriots had some sort of magic potion in the playoffs. No, it takes skilled players, good coaches, scheme and good QB play–that one, you have not had all year.

  31. Loophole or not…….as a fan of neither team……..it makes football less enjoyable to watch, so let’s get rid of it…….just my opinion.

  32. A healthy dose of karma who took sportsmanship out of g the game and made it dirty warfare. Maybe Belicheat needs to look in the rule book and figure it our.

  33. THAT was some exciting football action! No wonder the rest of the world thinks football is a snoozefest.

  34. Nice move. Belichick admitted it was a loophole back when he did it. Not POSITIVE what exactly he was mad about when the Titans did it to them. Easy to assume it was just the fact they were doing it but there could have been more to it, we may never know for sure.

  35. Easy fix. The team that accepts or declines a penalty is also given the option to stop the clock or not.

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