Vrabel 'trying to be aggressive' with fourth-down call
Mike Vrabel wanted to open up the lead to a margin that he figured was insurmountable.
Instead, the Tennessee Titans coach opened himself up to questions about his decision-making when he called for his offense to attempt a fourth-down conversion during Sunday’s 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
It happened fewer than two minutes into the fourth quarter. The Titans already were ahead by 14 when they faced a fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 10. A field goal in that situation would push the advantage to 17 points and force the Falcons to score three times (ultimately, they only got two more possessions).
Vrabel kept the offense on the field, but Derrick Henry was stopped for a two-yard loss and Atlanta took over still trailing by two touchdowns with 13:09 remaining.
“Just trying to be aggressive,” Vrabel said. “… We didn’t make it. We didn’t end up converting.”
It’s not the first time.
Vrabel built a reputation as an aggressive decision-maker early in 2018, his first season as a head coach at any level, when the Titans went for it on fourth down seven times in the first four weeks. They were 2-for-2 in a victory over Houston and 3-for-3 (two in overtime) in a victory over Philadelphia two weeks later.
Since then, Tennessee is 2-for-8 on fourth down, including 0-for-3 this season. In the Week 3 loss at Jacksonville, the offense failed on fourth-and-6 from the Jaguars’ 11. A little more than three minutes later a 10-point deficit had grown to 17.
Against Atlanta, Vrabel said, the score was only one of the things he considered. He also took into account the fact the Tennessee’s defense had kept Atlanta out of the end zone for seven straight possessions (two field goal attempts, two punts, two failed fourth downs, one fumble) and that his own offense had just 32 yards and two first downs after halftime.
He also felt Lady Luck was on his side by virtue of the fact that the Titans had fumbled three times against the Falcons but had not lost any of them.
“We were kind of playing with house money there the way the ball had kind of been bouncing around,” he said. “I felt our defense was playing great. I thought we could really end it there and get going offensively.”
He’s fortunate things didn’t get interesting after that.