Mike Vrabel appeared to take an intentional penalty to stop the clock on Titans’ comeback

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Titans coach Mike Vrabel showed some quick thinking and a thorough knowledge of the NFL’s timing rules late in Tennessee’s comeback win over Houston on Sunday.

With the Titans trailing 30-29 and Houston having the ball on second-and-1 with 3:28 to play, Vrabel sent safety Josh Kalu onto the field, making him the 12th Titans defender. Video from the TV broadcast shows Titans cornerback Johnathan Joseph questioning whether this was a mistake, and Vrabel seeming to understand what he was doing.

Sure enough, the officials blew the play dead and flagged the Titans for having too many players on the field. That gave the Texans a first down, and stopped the clock.

The announcers called it an error, but it didn’t appear to be. It appeared that Vrabel knew exactly what he was doing: By giving the Texans the first down on a penalty, Vrabel had stopped the clock without calling timeout. If the Texans had run the ball, there’s a good chance they would have picked up the first down anyway, but the clock would have kept running. Vrabel saved about 40 seconds with the penalty.

Those 40 seconds made a huge difference, as the Titans ended up scoring the game-tying touchdown with four seconds left, and then winning the game in overtime.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Vrabel used the clock rules to his advantage. In the Titans’ playoff win over the Patriots, Vrabel had the Titans take a delay of game penalty, and then follow it with an intentional false start penalty with one second remaining on the play clock, a combination of penalties that allowed the Titans to take one minute and 19 seconds off the clock between snaps while protecting a late lead. That was a move that Vrabel’s former coach, Bill Belichick, had previously used — and that the NFL made impossible with a rules change over the offseason.

Perhaps another rules change is coming after this season, as Vrabel has once again figured out a way to use penalties to manipulate the game clock.

19 responses to “Mike Vrabel appeared to take an intentional penalty to stop the clock on Titans’ comeback

  1. I’ve been complaining about this for a long time. Bill B. Does this all of the time and the NFL doesn’t fix it in the off-season.

  2. If the things you are doing make it seem like that you’re smart and thorough like Belichik, thats a really good sign for your head coaching career

  3. Awesome comeback aided by the Texans’ bizarre choice to go for 2 rather than settle for an 8 point lead. You get the feeling the Texans would be a better team if they played with no coach at all.

  4. Question for PFT or the PFT readers: What would happen if the Texans declined the penalty? Would the officials “wind” the clock immediately and negate Vrabel’s smart move?

  5. It wasn’t so much about stopping the clock but limiting the number of downs. By taking the penalty and giving the Texans a first and 10 at the 20 instead of a potential 1st and 10 at the 23, he limited the total number of downs the Texans could use to burn the clock.

    1st and 10 at the 20 gives you (barring any penalities) a max of 8 downs since a first down from there would result in a 1st and goal. However, 1st and 10 at the 23 gives the Texans a possible 12 downs, because you they could concievably get 2 more first downs (1st and ten from the 13 then 1st and goal from the 3)

  6. This is the exactly why I watch football. The wicked gamesmanship is what I love and pure intellectual perversity on my part. I love watching all the meatheads pounding their chests while their teams lose to smarter teams. Vrabel has my respect.

    I don’t buy what the twitter poster said that Vrabel “knows Houston will score.” He was simply trying to stop the clock for that specific down without using a timeout. Essentially he gave up 4 yards to save 40 seconds. Whatever happens after that is a different concern for him. But the gamesmanship of that specific down was brilliant.

  7. troy43mvp says:
    October 19, 2020 at 10:32 am
    I’ve been complaining about this for a long time. Bill B. Does this all of the time and the NFL doesn’t fix it in the off-season.

    Fix what? Leave the rules alone….

  8. Crennell went for two because he didnt believe in his defence. Even when the Titans scored, Gostkowski wasnt a sure thing, missing short FGs and extra points this season.

  9. Give him credit, he’s playing within the rules given to every team. Nothing wrong with being smart enough to use the rules to his advantage.

  10. This is a coach that knows what he is doing. Do you think Adam Gase would do something like that?

  11. Simple fix to this. Inside of 2 minutes, when the defense commits a penalty, give the offense the option to allow the clock to continue to run. I appreciate the gamesmanship aspects and certainly don’t blame Vrabel from exploiting the rules, but really – we shouldn’t have rules that can be manipulated to create unintended advantages.

  12. Vrabel is a super bowl win waiting to happen. Clear front runner of the new breed of NFL HC’s

  13. He’s gonna be the only head coach off the Belichik tree that amounts to something. Probably that time spent in Pittsburgh, at the beginning of his career, learning the game from Cowher.

  14. I admire coaches that actually operate from the neck up, Vrabel does that in spades, just like his mentor

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