Before the angry comments start to roll in, let’s get something out of the way: The Titans have a very good head coach in Mike Vrabel. He made a terrible, cowardly and pitiful decision in a crucial moment in the playoffs. Both of these things can be true.
With 10:06 left in fourth quarter, the Titans were faced with a fourth-and-two from Baltimore’s 40-yard line. They were losing the game 17-13. Instead of trusting his offense to convert, Vrabel decided to punt the ball. It was a head-scratcher. It was the opposite of bold and aggressive, two words often used to describe Vrabel’s in-game coaching style.
Brett Kern got off a poor punt and the decision to boot it away “gained” the Titans a pathetic 25 yards. The Ravens took possession at their own 15 and chewed a bunch of clock on a nine-play, 52-yard drive that resulted in a field goal.
It meant the Titans needed to drive 80 yards in the dying moments just to tie the contest. It wasn’t to be.
As expected, the analytics crews absolutely dragged Vrabel on social media. He deserved no less.
Talk about a blunder!— EdjSports (@edjsports) January 10, 2021
Punting cost the #Titans 14% pre-snap win probability.
Yikes. Let’s take a closer look at the sequence that lead to the punt. Derrick Henry had gained eight yards on first down, leaving the Titans with three chances to gain two yards and keep a potential go-ahead drive alive. In an odd turn of events, the Titans chose not to run Henry on either second or third down, as Tannehill instead threw back-to-back incompletions. The Titans were losing the line of scrimmage battle, but Henry should have gotten a chance.
Let’s check in with some more analytics:
TEN decided to punt to BAL from the BAL 40 on 4th & 2 with 10:06 remaining in the 4th while losing 13 to 17.— Surrender Index 90 (@surrender_idx90) January 10, 2021
With a Surrender Index of 138.87, this punt ranks at the 100th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2020 season, and the 99.92nd percentile of all punts since 2009.
Yikes times two.
The biggest disappointment for me here is that Vrabel has never been a timid coach. Who remembers when he went for it on fourth-and-11 just last week against the Texans? How does that same coach make this decision, in a do-or-die contest no less? Here’s how Vrabel “explained” the thought process:
The Titans had chances to make up for it, but it just wasn’t there day.