How the Titans fared in the red zone in 2012: Run defense

After covering how the offense fared in the red zone in 2012, both on the ground and in the air, it's time to turn my attention to the defensive side of the ball. I'll cover the run defense in this post and conclude the series with a look at the pass defense in my next post.

I noted in last year's post the Titans fared fairly well in the red zone in 2011, ranking ninth in percentage of opponent red zone possession that ended in a score with 48%. Things changed in 2012, for the worse. Significantly so. The Titans allowed their opponents to score a touchdown on 64% of red zone possession in 2012, good for a ranking of 30th in the league. The Titans were worse outside the red zone on defense, so it's no surprise they were worse in the red zone, but that's a fairly dramatic difference.

Overall, the Titans faced 93 rushes in the red zone in 2012. Of those, 44 were successful, a Success Rate of a 47%. That's a tick better than the league average, which was about 48% in 2011 and 52% in 2012.

The Titans were roughly equally successful on runs from the deep red zone (between 11 and 20 yards out) than they were on runs in the close red zone (1-10). Leaguewide, teams typically found a little more rushing success in the deep red zone than they did in the close red zone. The Titans were basically right at league average between the 11 and the 20 and a tick above it from the 10 and in, posting a 46% success rate. To add to the recurring trend, though, the Titans weren't quite as successful as they were in 2011 in such situations. In 2011, they posted a 37% (offensive) Success Rate inside the 10.

As I noted last year, the key to the Titans' strong performance in red zone rush defense was excellent close to the goalline, which was reflected in a very good score by Power,  Football Outsiders' metric that measures how effective teams were on and-one and and-two situations on third and fourth downs and in goalline. The Titans were 6th in 2011 at 53% and 24th in 2012 at 67%. Decline at the goalline is responsible for a good chunk of that decline. In 2011, only 2 of 11 runs against from the 1 or 2 resulted in touchdowns. In 2012, 9 of 17 did. That's a tick better than league average, rather than well below it.

I should emphasize here that while I'm presenting numbers and percentages, they aren't necessarily that robust. Only 11 or 17 chances to play run defense from the 1- and 2-yard-lines is not enough to accurately estimate the "true" quality of the Titans' run defense in such situations. I try to use words like "success", because I think that makes it clearer it's measuring how they performed, rather than a more qualitative word like "better" or "worse." I imagine Hypothetical Jerry Gray might look at these numbers and say we need better big people so we can play better in what you call Power situations. Hypothetical Jerry Gray has a point, though it was a lot stronger when he inherited an undersized defensive line than it is now.

And now I'll shut myself down, lest I get into a Jerry Gray rant. Pass defense up next.

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