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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #19: Mike Vrabel

So many postseason memories of this guy. And yet the earliest and latest memories are unpleasant.

My first awareness of Mike Vrabel is seated in resentment. It was 1998, and the Patriots were trying to get back to the Super Bowl. Trailing 7-6 late in the AFC divisional round, the Pats were driving for the go-ahead field goal when a Steeler rookie linebacker sacked Drew Bledsoe, ending the game. Yup, Mike Vrabel.

We all know about the most recent memory, of course, 22 years later. Coach Vrabel, out-Belichicking Belichick with his Titans to potentially end the greatest dynasty sports has ever seen. A dynasty he figured in prominently himself.

In between those memories, lots of good ones. Lots of clutch tackles, sacks, and yes, catches. As reliable a linebacker as he was in both coverage and run stuffing, the most fun memories of Mike Vrabel are from his versatility. Number 50 had ten NFL catches. All ten were touchdowns. He has the most touchdowns scored in NFL history on offense by a defensive player. Two of those scores came on the biggest stage, making Vrabel one of only 17 players with two or more touchdown catches in Super Bowls. Perhaps his most memorable play in a Patriots uniform came in the Super Bowl against the Panthers in 2004, with his acrobatic fourth-quarter touchdown catch.

Mike Vrabel was part of that great defense from the first act of the dynasty, lining up with Seymour and Law and McGinest and the rest. He clearly learned about toppling seemingly unbeatable opponents from his Sith Master Bill, and now in his coaching incarnation he has his overachieving Titans one step away from an improbable Super Bowl appearance. As much as it hurt to see him beat the Pats at their own game a few weeks ago, it’s really hard not to root for him now. If the AFC Championship is close late, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach Vrabel squeeze into a Number Fifty jersey, line up at tight end, and catch a big touchdown to win it.

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