Sportress of Blogitude

Bill Belichick lost it when Mike Vrabel used his own ploy against him in playoffs

Mike Vrabel stole a page out of Bill Belichick’s gamesmanship playbook to help seal the Tennessee Titans’ AFC Wild Card round victory over the New England Patriots last season. To no surprise, being victimized by his own antics left Belichick furious, according to Vrabel.

The Titans were able to burn almost two minutes of game time during the fourth quarter while holding a 14-13 lead by utilizing a trick Belichick had used earlier in the season in a win over the New York Jets. Tennessee took consecutive dead-ball penalties — a delay of game and a false start — while in punt formation on fourth down to bleed crucial time off the clock.

When the gambit was all said and done, the clock read 4:50 remaining after starting at 6:35 when the Titans began the execution of the ploy.

During an appearance Tuesday on NFL Network’s Helliepod Podcast, Vrabel commented on how a bird’s-eye view of Belichick fuming on the sideline was relayed to him.

“He’s committed to being my eyes upstairs,” Vrabel said of how Titans assistant John Streicher, sitting in the press box, told him about Belichick. “He’s like, ‘You’ve got to see Bill. Bill’s losing his mind.’”

Vrabel, who of course played linebacker for Belichick from 2001-08 during a run in which the Patriots won three Super Bowls, downplayed the notion that it was intended as an act of comeuppance at the expense of his former coach.

“It’s all relative, you know what I mean?,” Vrabel said. “I was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to finish this game off and we’ll see what happens.’ It was only done four times last year. It’s got to be the right situation. I would have gone for it [on fourth down] but we lost like five yards on third down.”

The NFL has since closed the loophole, as owners last month approved a new rule that prevents teams from “manipulating the game clock” in such situations. Still, it must have been gratifying for Vrabel to some extent to use of one of Belichick’s patented acts of gamesmanship against him.