For ease of comparison, let’s look at offense and defense side by side. Chart? Chart.
|# Drives||Pct||Pts Per Drive||Zone||# Drives||Pct||Pts Per Drive|
What do we see here?
- On both offense and defense, starting from the 20 seems like a veritable dead zone. It’s counter-intuitive that worse starting field position can yield, on average, better results. It may just be a relatively small sample-size fluke, or it may be reflective that bigger phenomena are skewing the data.
- The Titans, on par, started with better field position than the defense ended up with. The percentage differences aren’t huge, but the Titans had more drives start in opposing territory and more drives start further downfield. Using my numbers, which exclude all non-purposeful drives at the end of each half, the Titans’ average starting field position on offense was the 27.4, while the average starting field position on defense was the 26.2.
- Not exactly a new trend, but the Titans weren’t very good at turning particularly good starting field position into points, though that wasn’t unprecedented. Note the numbers from 2010, particularly the final nine games. The Titans weren’t very good this year, but last year they were downright atrocious at it. The defense, by contrast, got absolutely gashed. Fourteen of the 17 possessions ended up with points. The three that didn’t were the Broncos getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Browns getting stuffed on fourth-and-one at the 41, and Blaine Gabbert throwing an interception on fourth-and-one from the 9. The offense, on the other hand, punted six times when they got the ball at midfield or beyond.
- Somewhat counter-intuitively, the average starting field position difference doesn’t come from kickoff returns. On offense, the average starting field position after a kickoff was the 20.9, while on defense it was the 22.2.
- Instead, the difference seems to come from punts. The Titans’ average starting field position after an opponent punt was the 27.4, while after a Titans punt it was 24.1. It’s worth noting, though, that this doesn’t necessarily indicate the Titans were good on punts. Football Outsiders numbers do indeed indicate they were, but they also indicate the Titans were good on kickoffs and kick returns as well.
- Keep in mind that while these include all sixteen games, the number of drives in each game aren’t the same. For example, the Falcons had eight drives that show up in these numbers, while the Bucs had 13. If I had to guess how the numbers would come out if you weighted each game equally, the defense is probably somewhat worse than these numbers indicate, while the offense is probably somewhat better.
If there’s anything else you’re interested in seeing from the field position numbers, let me know and I’ll see if I can accommodate you.