Titans' Mike Vrabel uses Bill Belichick time-wasting rule loophole against the Patriots

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The Tennessee Titans produced one of the first shocks of the NFL playoffs this year by knocking the New England Patriots in the Wild Card round.

The Titans were up by one as the game approached the final five minutes, but they had to punt the ball to the Patriots. They ended up using a Bill Belichick trick against him.

Knowing that punting the ball to New England with so much time left on the clock would give them enough time to score, Tennessee needed to find a way to kill time.

The Titans went on to exploit a loophole in the NFL rules that allowed them to run nearly two minutes off the clock between 3rd and 4th downs before they finally punted the ball to the Patriots.

On 4th and four from the Patriots' 36 with just over six minutes to go, Mike Vrabel made the decision to punt.

The Titans then proceeded to take a delay of game penalty, as well as committing a false start penalty, and they were prepared to take another delay of game penalty, but then Patriots jumped offsides.

By the time the Titans punted the ball, the clock had gone down from 6:35 to 4:50.

Unsurprisingly, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was frustrated by the Titans' time-wasting tactics, but these were tactics he was all too familiar with.

Back in October, Belichick pointed out that the way he had taken penalties in the past was a loophole in the rules that should be fixed.

He said, via PFT: “It was just the way the rules are set up. We were able to run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything. That’s probably a loophole that will be closed and probably should be closed but right now it’s open.”

Just a few months later, the same time-wasting tactics were used against him, and Belichick said after the Titans loss that despite the roles being reversed, nothing has changed.

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots

He said: “We’ve talked about this before. It’s the same thing we’ve talked about before. There’s no change."

Despite it being a loophole in the NFL rules, there are limits to how teams can exploit it.

With five minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter, it doesn’t work because penalties always stop the clock inside five minutes.

If the Titans had done it a third time, they could have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which would have cost them 15 yards of field position and stop the clock.

However, until the rules change, teams will keep on using it. It will be interesting to see if other teams start using this rule if they have a lead as we go on in the playoffs.

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