Coach Mike Vrabel's London gamble doesn't pay off, Titans lose to Chargers

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

In his short time as an NFL head coach, Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel has shown that he’s not afraid to gamble, bucking the long-held traditions of league coaches of generally playing it safe.

On Sunday, with the Titans playing the Los Angeles Chargers in London, the first time Tennessee has played overseas, Vrabel showed faith in his team again, but unlike a few weeks ago, it didn’t pay off.

Titans go for 2 to prevent overtime

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The Titans grinded out a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in the closing moments of the game, scoring on fourth down with a Marcus Mariota pass to Luke Stocker.

Los Angeles Chargers defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Derwin James celebrate after the Chargers prevented the Tennessee Titans from converting the potentially game-winning two-point play. (AP)
Los Angeles Chargers defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Derwin James celebrate after the Chargers prevented the Tennessee Titans from converting the potentially game-winning two-point play. (AP)

While it was questionable to some that the Titans didn’t hand the ball to Derrick Henry with less than a yard to go on fourth down, Stocker made the catch in traffic for the touchdown.

Now down a point, 20-19, Vrabel and the Titans opted to go for two and the win instead of kick the extra point and likely go to overtime (there were 35 seconds left and the Chargers had two timeouts to try to get into field-goal position).

They had two shots at it, thanks to a holding call on defensive back Casey Hayward Jr. on the first try. On the second, snapped from the 1 because of the penalty, the Titans again didn’t hand off to Henry – and indeed had an empty backfield – instead going for a back-of-the-end-zone pass. The Chargers’ Adrian Phillips was credited with a tipped pass on the play.

Vrabel defends decision

Vrabel, not surprisingly, stood by the decision.

“I told the team that we made a decision that we’re going to be aggressive,” Vrabel said. “If we scored, when we scored, if there was less than 40 seconds we were going to go for two to win the game. If there was [over a minute], we’re gonna kick the extra point and go play defense.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in our players – they’ve been converting third downs, converting in their situations, Marcus was doing everything we need him to do to keep plays alive. Not going to second-guess the call; it just didn’t work out.”

The panel on CBS’ “The NFL Today” was critical of Vrabel, with Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms in particular saying they would have gone for the extra point and played for overtime. Former coach Bill Cowher seemed more understanding.

Our two cents: it wasn’t the decision, but the execution. You have a 240-pound running back in Henry and the ball at the 1, how do you not give it to him? Just ask Pete Carroll.

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