Genius: Mike Vrabel Took A Smart Penalty Late In Titans’ Win Over The Texans

The Titans kept their undefeated record alive on Sunday with a thrilling win over the Houston Texans.

The Titans ended up scoring the game-tying touchdown with just four seconds left in regulation, and then scored a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime to seal the victory.

Getting to that point is what people might’ve missed. Mike Vrabel used a loophole in the rulebook that ended up saving valuable time near the end of the game.

Here was the situation the Titans were in: They were down 30-29 with 3:28 left in the game. The Texans were driving and made it to field goal range. The Texans just picked up nine yards on a pass play, setting up 2nd and 1. Vrabel intentionally put too many players on the field as a way to save time. Instead of letting the Texans run a play (or two) and pick up a first down by just getting a yard, Vrabel sent out Josh Kalu (#46) to take an intentional penalty of too many men on the field.

Here’s the twist: Getting called for having too many men on the field gives the Texans a first down but also stops the clock. Taking the penalty saved 40 seconds of play and Tennessee didn’t even use their timeout. An offsides penalty would not stop the clock. Too many men on the field does. And Mike Vrabel knew that.  During the sequence, you can see veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph looking back at Vrabel not understanding what’s going on. Vrabel tells him not to worry about it. The Titans are penalized for having too many men on the field, and the Texans get a new set of downs. 

Here’s the full sequence, as outlined by Warren Sharp:

Vrabel also knew it’s easier to stop the Texans on 1st and 10 than it is on 2nd and 1. If the Texans had run the ball, there’s a good chance they would have picked up the first down, but the clock would have kept moving.

The Texans ultimately scored a touchdown but there was enough time left on the clock for the Titans to drive down the field and score a game-tying touchdown with four seconds remaining. The Titans then won the overtime coin toss and scored to win and remain undefeated.

This wasn’t the first time Vrabel pulled this off. He did the same thing back in 2018 against the Jets. 

Vrabel also used a loophole in the rulebook in the Titans’ playoff win over the Patriots last year. Vrabel had the Titans take a delay of game penalty, and then fan intentional false start penalty, allowing the Titans to take one minute and 19 seconds off the clock between snaps while protecting a late lead. NFL owners eliminated that loophole this past offseason.

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