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Late timeout wasn’t Titans’ worst decision

Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans dropped their regular season opener 21-20 to the New York Giants. It represents a stunning defeat for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Titans held a commanding 13-0 lead at halftime. Secondly, the Giants remain a rebuilding franchise in a transitional period under a new regime. It’s a devastating Week 1 loss.

Several will analyze Mike Vrabel’s fourth quarter clock management. Facing a first-and-10 with 18 seconds left from the Giants’ 27-yard line following a 21-yard reception by rookie receiver Kyle Philips, Vrabel elected to call Tennessee’s final timeout as the play clock neared zero. Ryan Tannehill appeared to get the snap off in time, but Vrabel understandably was against the potential loss of five yards. Hindsight indicates it wasn’t the correct decision, but it wasn’t Vrabel’s worst. That occurred just moments later.

The Titans were lined up for a 44-yard field goal. Instead of attempting to gain more yards in an attempt to make Randy Bullock’s impending attempt a more straightforward one, Vrabel and the Titans elected to get Bullock lined up on his preferred hash. Tannehill lost three yards and spiked the ball as the Titans settled for a 47-yard game-winning field goal attempt.

“Settling” for a 47-yard field goal is an unfathomable decision. Perhaps Vrabel and the Titans feared their lack of timeouts and opted against running another play. The timeout mishap shouldn’t have altered their thinking. Tannehill was an efficient 4-of-6 on the drive and his receivers had drawn two holding penalties. The Titans encountered little issue marching down the field. The Giants’ defense was gassed and struggling.

This isn’t meant to absolve Bullock of blame. He’s a professional kicker that was accurate for Tennessee last season. He should convert game-winners from 47 yards.

It should have never reached that point. The Titans will rightfully hold themselves accountable for several errors throughout the course of the contest, including a muffed point in their own territory (forgiven by an Amani Hooker interception), a confusing third-and-short play call to rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, and various additional missed opportunities. They saved their biggest mistake for last, however.