The 43-year-old, first-year coach was known as a gritty, tough linebacker during his playing days – most coming with the Patriots. He would do whatever it takes to win, filling holes across the lineup and even lining up on offense if it was needed.
Tennessee is starting to do the same.
The Titans are off to a 3-1 start following Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Tennessee attacked the win with aggression, deciding in overtime to pass up a tying 50-yard field goal to go for it on fourth-and-2.
Marcus Mariota, who went a perfect 14-for-14 in the second half while leading the Titans back from down 17-3, hit Dion Lewis for 19 yards. Three plays later, Mariota found Corey Davis on a 10-yard touchdown with only :05 to play.
“He believes in us, believes we can go get that first down and go win the game,” Mariota told reporters after the game. “When you have a head coach that believes in you, man that means the world.”
Vrabel has gone for it on fourth down more than any coach in the league, with the Titans converting five of seven attempts in four games. Three conversions came on Sunday’s final drive.
After bouncing back from an opening-day loss in the NFL’s longest game in Miami, the Titans have now won three in a row – each by three points.
The banged-up Titans, playing without Mariota and the team’s top three offensive tackles, got two fourth-quarter field goals from Ryan Succop, including the winner with 1:00 left, to beat the Texans 20-17 in Week 2.
Blaine Gabbert was knocked out of the team’s Week 3 game against the Jaguars, only to see Mariota come in and lead the team to a 9-6 victory. Mariota played despite having some lingering numbness in his throwing hand from an elbow injury suffered in the 27-20 loss to the Dolphins.
And now, the Titans have become the talk of the NFL after rallying from a 14-point hole to beat the Eagles in overtime. Grit and determination are becoming synonymous with how Tennessee is pulling out victories.
“We’re trying to build our reputation as a team and a player on what we’re doing and what we will do as opposed to what we’ve done,” Vrabel said Monday.
The Titans will have a great shot to keep their momentum rolling in Week 5. Tennessee visits the Buffalo Bills (1-3), starting a stretch of five of the next seven games on the road.
Aside from a surprising 27-6 win at Minnesota, when Buffalo stunned the public as a 17-point underdog, the Bills have been anemic. The Bills are coming off a 22-0 loss at Green Bay and boast the league’s second-worst offense behind rookie QB Josh Allen.
Fighting off the mindset of looking past the Bills is something Vrabel has already addressed.
“It’s easy to explain to these guys and show them if you don’t play well in this league – I don’t care where you play, I don’t care who you play, you lose. That’s the NFL,” said Vrabel.
Vrabel will instill his team with all the confidence they need, as long as it’s not overconfidence.