LONDON (AP) — The Tennessee Titans hated the outcome.
But they loved the call.
The decision by Titans coach Mike Vrabel to go for a go-ahead 2-point conversion against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday doomed Tennessee (3-4) to a third straight loss when Marcus Mariota’s pass to Taywan Taylor was tipped by safety Adrian Phillips in the end zone.
With the score 20-19 after Mariota threw a touchdown pass to Luke Stocker on fourth down with 31 seconds left, Vrabel had the option of playing it safe and heading for overtime by kicking an extra point. But there was no doubt in his players’ minds that he was right to go for the win.
“I love the call, everyone in this locker room loved the call,” wide receiver Tajae Sharpe said. “We wanted to be aggressive no matter what, and that’s what we did. Unfortunately it just didn’t go our way.”
Vrabel’s decision is likely to be second-guessed outside the Titans’ locker room, though, especially after the element of surprise disappeared when Tennessee’s first attempt at the 2-point conversion was negated by a defensive holding penalty.
The momentum was also in the Titans’ favor as they had rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second half and had largely managed to control the Chargers’ high-powered offense aside from two long touchdown passes by Philip Rivers.
Vrabel said playing with a banged-up offensive line after right guard Josh Kline limped off during the final drive was “a consideration” when making the call. Although he also said he had already made the decision before Kline’s injury.
“When that drive started I thought in my mind that if we scored, when we scored, and it was less than 40 seconds we were going to go for 2 and win the game,” Vrabel said.
“If it was a minute and 30 (seconds), we kick the extra point and we go and play defense. ... I got a lot of faith in my players converting third downs and converting those situations. Marcus was doing everything we needed to do to keep the plans alive. So I’m not going to second-guess the call. It just didn’t work out.”
Mariota finished with 237 yards passing and one touchdown, but also regretted an interception thrown from the Chargers 10-yard line on a play that began with 39 seconds left in the first half. A touchdown would have put Tennesee ahead 13-10 at halftime, but they instead found themselves trailing 17-6 after Rivers hit Mike Williams on a 55-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half.
Rivers also threw a 75-yard score to Tyrell Williams on the Chargers’ first play from scrimmage as Los Angeles came up with the big plays that eluded Tennesee.
Like Sharpe, though, Mariota defended Vrabel’s decision to go for 2.
“I love that he has confidence in us to go make that. We just didn’t execute,” Mariota said. “I should’ve done a better job maybe extending the play, knowing it was the last play. There’s definitely more I wish I could’ve done. But that being said, they did a good job of covering it.”