The Tennessee Titans’ first loss under head coach Mike Vrabel was memorable for all the wrong reasons, and today’s 20-17 thriller over the Houston Texans was even more memorable…for all the right reasons.
This was much more than a first win for the rookie head coach.
Down his starting quarterback, most reliable receiving target, and top three offensive tackles, Vrabel and his staff put on a masterful coaching performance in what was as close to a must-win game as you can have this early in the season.
And as a result, the Titans (1-1) are right back in the thick of the AFC South title race.
Vrabel was pelted with questions and doubt about his short-handed team’s chances to be competitive against a Deshaun Watson led Texans team that shredded Tennessee in his only game against them last year.
On Friday the national media mocked Vrabel for announcing that Mariota and back up quarterback Blaine Gabbert would each see time on the field today. Twitter trolls got their shots in, and their laughs.
But he who laughs last laughs loudest.
Vrable and his staff were aggressive and creative, scoring on a fake punt in the first quarter….running the wild cat with Derrick Henry, and going for it on fourth and one in their own territory when Houston appeared poised to sway momentum.
Back up quarterback Blaine Gabbert was put in situations to succeed with easy quick throws, and played an error free game with one touchdown toss and most importantly…zero turnovers.
Tennessee’s make-shift offensive line, who most people thought would be dominated by Houston’s vaunted front seven, pitched a sack shutout over J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus…two players that have given that unit fits…even at full strength.
And for the cherry on top, Vrabel’s first victory as coach of the Titans came against Bill O’Brien…the man who hired and promoted him to defensive coordinator in Houston.
It only counts as one win in the standings, but given the circumstances, this is the type of victory that earns respect in a locker room. Especially with a rookie head coach trying to lead a team that enjoyed playoff success a year ago under a different regime.
This is the kind of victory that would make skeptical veterans on the fringe completely buy in.
One can only guess the lack of sleep Vrable got this week after a tough opening loss, countless injuries, and questions about his ability to do the job.
He should sleep like a baby tonight…he earned it.