There’s a new wave of NFL coaches who are willing to make bold (and correct) calls, even if they know it will invite some unjustified criticism later.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel really doesn’t care about being second-guessed. He was going to play for the win.
Deep in overtime, Vrabel’s Titans decided to kick a field goal and try and tie the game 23-23. Then they called a timeout, Vrabel thought about it some more, and did the right thing. He played to win. The Titans decided after the timeout to go for it on fourth-and-2.
Fortune favors the bold. The Titans converted on fourth down, and with just a few seconds left in overtime, Marcus Mariota hit Corey Davis on an awesome touchdown catch in the end zone to knock off the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 26-23.
Good thing Vrabel didn’t play it safe.
Titans’ big gamble pays off
The key call wasn’t exactly the easiest one. Had Vrabel decided to try a 50-yard field goal and likely get a tie — Ryan Succop is his kicker, and he’s pretty good — it wouldn’t have been terrible. Half wins are still pretty important in a 16-game NFL season. Kicking a field goal there certainly would not have been as bad as the numerous times we still see NFL coaches punt on fourth-and-1 in opposing territory.
But trying 50-yard field goals to tie games won’t get you far either.
The fourth-down attempt got it, thanks to a nice run after catch by running back Dion Lewis. He picked up 17 yards. The Titans kept driving. Then on third-and-goal with less than 20 seconds left, Mariota hit Davis for the win on a 10-yard catch.
Mike Vrabel made a gutsy call for a rookie head coach
Mariota, who didn’t start the last two weeks due to an elbow injury, had a very nice performance. He made some big plays on the final drive in overtime. Davis’ catch was the best of his young career. It was clutch, as was the throw from Mariota.
But the game ball should go to Vrabel. It takes some guts to go for it on fourth down when an incompletion means losing a game. It’s especially gutsy for a rookie coach in his fourth career game.
We’ve seen younger coaches buck old-school conservative notions the past couple years. We see more creativity, and more coaches willing to take chances when the numbers say it’s the smart thing to do.
Vrabel succeeded in his gamble. Hopefully that rubs off on others.
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