The Titans decided to punt, and potentially punted away their Super Bowl hopes.
In the fourth quarter down 17-13, Mike Vrabel and the Titans opted to punt in Ravens territory, raising eyebrows and earning criticism from all corners of the Twittersphere.
On a fourth-and-2 from the Ravens’ 40-yard line with 10:06 left on the game clock, Vrabel and the Titans opted to punt, giving the ball back to the Ravens with ample time left. The Ravens would drive down the field and net a field goal, giving them the 20-13 lead. The score would hold for the final.
“Just decided to punt,” Vrabel said in his postgame press conference. “We were playing well defensively, thought we would get a punt inside the 10 and be able to play the field position game. Had some time there that I felt like we could. We held ’em to a field goal.”
Of course, these decisions are oftentimes painstakingly made and it’s often easy to second-guess these decisions in real time — but Vrabel’s decision to punt in that situation is the first time it’s happened in over 25 years, per Pro Football Reference.
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The analytics also disagree — vehemently — with Vrabel’s decision in that particular moment, leading to plenty of reinforcement for the head-scratching over the decision.
—> BAL (17) @ TEN (13) <—
TEN has 4th & 2 at the BAL 40
Recommendation (VERY STRONG): ? Go for it (+7.9 WP)
Actual play: ?? B.Kern punts 25 yards to BLT 15, Center-M.Overton, fair catch by D.Duvernay. pic.twitter.com/jOnBdWPgVp
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) January 10, 2021
Of course, the internet doesn’t forget: Vrabel once was quoted as saying he would lop off his own genitals if it meant a Super Bowl appearance for the Titans. Clearly, the potential beheading played into Vrabel’s mind, and the adoring public reminded the Titans HC of that.
Mike Vrabel is willing to cut his penis off to win a Super Bowl but won’t go on 4th and 2 at the Ravens 40.
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 10, 2021
The Packers showed us all the way against the Titans: You stop Derrick Henry, you stop this team in its tracks.
I still have no idea what Mike Vrabel was doing punting on Baltimore’s 40, though. Maybe if you went for it there, you wouldn’t have had to scramble to recover.
— BungledTree (@UrinatingTree) January 10, 2021
is Mike Vrabel’s blood oath to cut his penis off in case of a Titans Super Bowl win still in effect, because that might explain the decision to punt
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) January 10, 2021
I have the Ravens here, I am beyond thankful Mike Vrabel just punted there!!!! What in the world is that???
— John Jastremski (@john_jastremski) January 10, 2021
Mike Vrabel is gonna get demolished in the media/by fans for that punt decision and he’ll deserve all the criticism. I can’t think of anything recent in the NFL that comes close to how disastrous and cowardly that was. 4th and 2 at the Baltimore 40, Derrick Henry on your roster.
— Will Warren (@statsbywill) January 10, 2021