Titans head coach Mike Vrabel played linebacker for the Patriots for eight seasons, winning three Super Bowls along the way. So it probably wasn’t meant as disrespect when Vrabel hit his former coach, Bill Belichick, with a little gamesmanship Sunday.
When the Patriots called a trick play late in the game, the Titans responded with the same exact call two plays later just to show they could do it better.
Vrabel on throwback to Mariota, just after NE threw to Brady: "I wanted to see if ours looked better than theirs." Smirks.— Travis Haney (@travhaney) November 11, 2018
The play did end up looking better when the Titans did it — which isn’t too surprising considering it relied on the playmaking ability of each team’s quarterback:
Marcus Mariota is more athletic than Tom Brady. Duh.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots pulled out a little misdirection on a play that ended with a 6-yard pass from Julian Edelman to Tom Brady. He was pretty wide open, but he didn’t get a first down, mostly because Brady tripped over his own feet.
It didn’t look natural. Even Brady admitted that after the game.
Brady on his reception: "I don’t know what happened. I was a fish out of water."— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) November 11, 2018
Brady came up one yard short of a first down and a false start on the next play essentially negated the entire play for the Patriots. New England failed to convert a fourth-and-6 on the next play, and the Titans took over on downs.
Tennessee didn’t wait at all to make the Patriots look bad. They dialed up their version of the pass on the very first play of their ensuing drive, picking up 21 yards on a completion from Darius Jennings to Marcus Mariota.
While it wasn’t as open, Mariota still managed to get up field quickly and carry New England cornerback Jason McCourty for a big gain.
The game turned out to be a signature win for Vrabel and the Titans. The mirror trick plays also made the win a rare part of NFL history, as it’s not every day two quarterbacks catch a pass in a game:
With Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota catching passes today, it marks the first time two starting quarterbacks did so in the same game since 1995, per CBS broadcast.— Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas) November 11, 2018
Bubby Brister and Jim Harbaugh.
That rare feat would’ve happened in the Super Bowl in February if a pass to Brady hadn’t been dropped.
The Titans aren’t the first to antagonize the Patriots
Brady’s drop against the Eagles landed the Patriots on the receiving end of some trolling too. Philadelphia called the Patriots’ failed Super Bowl trick play in Week 1 of this season just to show they could pull it off successfully.
It seems everyone loves to take a shot at the team that has been king of the NFL for much of the last two decades when they get a chance. At least in the case of Vrabel, it probably wasn’t personal. That can’t be said for every member of the Titans, though.
With the loss, the Patriots dropped to 7-3 on the year, but there isn’t much reason for them to panic. They’ll be back and the Patriots will likely be tough to deal with in January, like always. But maybe it’s time to rip all pass plays to Brady out of the playbook. They’re just inviting the Patriots to get clowned.