The Titans' game plan got it done: 'Everything Mike Vrabel said was on point'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Unexpected wrinkles, a giant trick play, a risky fourth-down conversion and a super fourth quarter propelled the Titans to a highly improbable victory in their home opener.

"Who is this team?” a friend texted me. “And what have they done with my Titans?

Mike Vrabel was presented the game ball by Ben Jones, but would have you believe he didn’t deserve it.

“Calling it is easy,” he said, pointing us to the locker room for passing out any credit.

Sorry, Vrabel is getting a bunch.


Jon Robinson picked Vrabel because he thought a young coach was a leader of men who, with a well-crafted staff, would prove far more adaptable than his predecessor.

And the Titans, minus Delanie Walker and understanding they’d likely be without Marcus Mariota and down to their fourth and fifth tackles, were still creating new stuff for the game plan on Friday. Typically, the plan is pretty much locked in by then.

When did the Titans learn of the Derrick Henry quarterbacked Wildcat plays?

“It was not long ago,” Jones said.

Did the Titans previously have Wildcat plays in their playbook?

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Gritty win should help define 2018 Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Make the case that the Titans showed us more of who they are with a dud of an opener in a seven-hour loss in Miami to open the season.

I'll take the other side: Sunday's 20-17 victory at Nissan Stadium over the Texans was more telling.


Down their starting quarterback and a trio of tackles including one who's been All-Pro and one who's been to the last two Pro Bowls, they found a way to win. It was a lot more gritty than pretty.

They will be healthy at some point and we will see better-looking games, But they'll have this one in the bank, a deposit they'll be able to draw on in any circumstances. It's hard to imagine those will be worse than this.

My video report from the field.

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More bad health news for Titans: Dennis Kelly is in the hospital

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dennis Kelly, who’s been starting at right tackle in the absence of Jack Conklin, was in the hospital for at least one night and remains there, sources tell me.

He’s fighting a virus that has not necessarily been pinned down.

A Saturday hospital stay seems highly unlikely to turn into a Sunday game appearance.


The Titans are already without left tackle Taylor Lewan, out with a concussion suffered against Miami, and Conklin, who’s not yet back from rehabilitating a torn ACL suffered in the playoff loss at New England in January.


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Pickers notebook: The Mike Vrabel-Bill O'Brien game within a game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a busy week, I didn’t get to touch on several topics. In lieu of a mailbag, I offer these nuggets.

Mike Vrabel: His knowledge of the Texans from his four years with the team will certainly be of great value. He knows what they do and how they do it. He also knows the views of Bill O’Brien and his staff of all the Titans players – what they fear, what they don’t, what they are likely to try to attack, etc.TexansTitans

But knowing all that doesn’t mean Vrabel can plan to prevent it. It comes down to players. Vrabel’s got Dennis Kelly and Kevin Pamphile as his offensive tackles. Any coach with his third and fourth guys trying to stop J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney can only expect so much.

Also, O’Brien knows what Vrabel knows. There could be a lot of this in play:

DeAndre Hopkins: The Texans’ receiver had s a tremendous skill set. He’s often able to gain some separation with a light “shove” that he has mastered getting away with. But his best quality, in my

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Officiating has been a giant topic for Titans followers after a miserable performance by Jerome Boger and his crew in last Sunday’s season opener.

What we now know is the league, allegedly working hard on protecting players and preaching player safety, thinks both William Hayes’ hit on Marcus Mariota and Andre Branch’s hit on Taylor Lewan were not fine-worthy.


Hayes was not fined for his play, and Branch was fined $10,026, not for his hit, but for unsportsmanlike conduct after it.


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Marcus Mariota AND Blaine Gabbert?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two important points regarding Mike Vrabel saying he anticipates playing both Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert on Sunday against the Texans.

1) He has not, in a way I can recall, lied in a press conference. Smart coaches in the NFL know that while their relationship with the press can be a tug-of-war over decisions and information, that an outright lie simply kills an important two-way relationship.


He’s been honest with us and with me, and I do not believe for a second he’s lying here. As of Friday afternoon, he’s expecting to play both quarterbacks. I would think if the starter plays well and sustains it, that could change.

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Scout's take: 'If the Titans are going to have a pass rush, this is the week'

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special contributor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  With the Jacksonville Jaguars on the horizon in Week 3, it is crucial for the Titans to fix their issues versus a division opponent in the Houston Texans.

The Titans offense will be without Delanie Walker for the remainder of the season. Without him, it is important to find a player or a position group that the Titans can rely on. 

Currently, that is the running back position.

With two quality backs in Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry, the Titans have two guys with different skill sets. It will be important to utilize their talents against that Texan defense.VrabelWatt

(Photo courtesy Houston Texans)

Lewis can take advantage of the aggressive pass rush of the Texans in the screen game and work to get him matched up with Bendarick McKinney the Texans big and powerful inside linebacker. 

The Texans would prefer to match Lewis vs. inside linebacker Zach Cunningham or a combination of safeties with Kareem Jackson or

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Minus Delanie Walker, how different will defensive coverage be?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With the Titans ready to start life after Delanie Walker, I initially thought it would mean drastic changes in the coverage the offense faces.

But after talking with coaches, scouts and analysts, I’ve concluded things won’t be as different as I imagine.

Walker was unquestionably the Titans most threatening weapon, and he drew the most attention.WalkerThroatCIN

We tend to overestimate the frequency of the double teams he faced, however, as well as the number of guys in the league who warrant double teams.

I asked Mike Vrabel how often he goes into a game with the intention of double-teaming a guy throughout.

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