2011 Tennessee Titans and play-calling by quarter

The Tennessee Titans were not a great offense in the first quarter. They struggled to sustain drives, and even in a game like the one against the Saints where they opponent wasn’t scoring touchdowns, they were running a lot more plays than the Titans did.

The Tennessee Titans were not a great running team. They (by which I pretty much mean Chris Johnson) struggled to get into positive down-and-distance situations, and Matt Hasselbeck had to bail them out of too many third-and-long situations.

Would you be surprised to learn that these two facts happen to be connected? It’s true. The first quarter was the quarter where the Titans really tried to pretend like they could run the ball effectively. Over the course of the season, they ran 76 rushing plays to 104 passing plays. That’s still pass-heavier, yes, but running 42% of the time like that was a higher percentage of run plays than they called in any other quarter.  The other thing was, those first quarter running plays were particularly ineffective. The Success Rate on first-quarter rushes was only 29%. To put that in perspective, no NFL running back in the last five years who’s gotten at least 100 carries has had a success rate worse than 34%. The running game got better, but only picked up in the second half. The passing game was mostly strong, except that it was awful in the third quarter.

Anyway, here’s the full data dump in chart format:

Quarter Passes (Pct) Pass Success Rate Runs (Pct) Run Success Rate
1st 104 (57.8%) 42.3% 76 (42.2%) 28.9%
2nd 187 (68.5%) 44.4% 86 (31.5%) 36.0%
3rd 136 (64.4%) 34.6% 75 (35.6%) 46.7%
4th 191 (63.5%) 48.2% 110 (36.5%) 45.4%

If you want to say the Titans called too many rushing plays in the first quarter. I’m not going to disagree with you. If you want to know what happened to the passing game in the third quarter, well, you’re on the same page I am. That, as they say, though, is a future post.