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Mike Vrabel’s ballsy playcalling helped the Titans win and saved us from another tie

The Titans beat the Eagles in OT thanks to some bold calls (and Marcus Mariota. So much Marcus Mariota).

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Vrabel had no interest in settling for a tie against the defending NFL champions — and he was rewarded for his boldness.

The Titans’ first-year head coach got the biggest win of his budding tenure Sunday, defeating the Eagles thanks in part to an all-or-nothing call late in overtime. Facing fourth-and-two with 1:17 to play and trailing by three points, Vrabel decided to go for it rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal that would have likely sent the game to a 23-23 draw. His gamble paid off; a short pass to tailback Dion Lewis picked up 17 yards to breathe new life into the home team.

Four plays later, Marcus Mariota’s third-and-goal flick to a streaking Corey Davis sealed the game with just 13 seconds left on the clock.

The Titans capitalized on their momentum for what could be a season-defining win

Tennessee looked cooked midway through the third quarter. The Eagles opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that drained more than seven minutes from the clock and gave Philadelphia a 17-3 lead over an opponent whose previous five drives had ended with four punts and an interception. But the Titans were charged up behind Mariota, who put the team on his back and led it on three straight scoring drives to take a fourth-quarter lead.

That momentum fizzled when the Eagles rallied to tie the game and then take the lead by capping the opening drive of overtime with a field goal, but the Tennessee offense was ready. Mariota’s offense milked as much drama as possible from its last drive of the game, needing 16 plays — including three different fourth-down conversions (and a fourth-and-15!) — to find the end zone and shut the door on the defending champions.

Mariota saved his biggest performance of an injury-marred season for Week 4. The fourth-year passer threw for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns — two numbers that would have been even bigger without a handful of costly drops from Tennessee’s receivers. Carson Wentz was arguably better on the opposite sideline, throwing for 348 yards and two scores. Each quarterback finished the game with an identical 99.4 passer rating.

More importantly for the Titans, the team finally got the monster performance it had been waiting for from Davis. The former No. 5 overall pick had the best game of his young career with a nine-catch, 161-yard showcase.

Vrabel’s fourth-down gamble saved us from another week of lukewarm takes on tiebreakers

A 50-yard field goal Sunday — no guarantee given Ryan Succop’s 54.5% career success rate from 50+ yards — would have likely doomed this game to the league’s third draw in four weeks. That’s only ever happened once before in the NFL’s modern era, and that was way back in 1971.

Instead, he allowed Mariota to play the hero and ride his cresting wave of momentum to the Titans biggest win of the season. Tennessee has now beaten the defending NFL champions and the AFC runner-up in consecutive weeks and stands atop the AFC South at 3-1. There’s still a lot of football to be played, but Mariota’s big Week 4 performance validated his coach’s trust in him and makes the Titans a legit contender this fall.