As our Dan Pizzuta highlighted yesterday, the AFC Championship game could be decided by red zone performance. When it comes to performing the red zone, no teams has run as hot as the Tennessee Titans.
Tennessee has scored on just 6-of-21 possessions in the postseason (28.6%), which is the second-lowest rate for a team this postseason. Of those possessions, just five have gained more than 36 yards of offense. That hasn’t mattered because the Titans continue to convert their high-leverage scoring opportunities into touchdowns at a torrid pace.
All six of those scoring drives have been touchdowns and the past 24 scores by the Tennessee offense have been touchdowns. They haven’t even attempted a field goal since Week 15 or have made one since Week 13.
Since the Titans turned their offense over to Ryan Tannehill in Week 7, the Titans have scored a 31 red zone touchdowns, tied with the Ravens for the most in the NFL over that span. In terms of cashing in scoring opportunities for their maximum value, the Titans have scored a touchdown on 31-of-39 drives that ended inside of the red zone under Tannehill. That 79.5% touchdown rate is tops in the league. The rest of the NFL has scored a touchdown on 56.9% of their possessions that have ended inside of the red zone. For more of a visual on just how wide of a gap the Titans have over the league over that span in not settling for field goals in the red zone, check out this from J.J. Zachariason.
Red zone touchdown to field goal ratios over this time period (this is legitimately insane): pic.twitter.com/dILSwBSVTL
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) January 12, 2020
Having Derrick Henry, who has a league-leading 10 red zone rushing touchdowns since Week 7, aids their performance in red zone. The Titans have run the ball on 51.1% of their red zone plays — the fifth-highest rate in the league — under Tannehill, but don’t be mistaken, where the Titans are truly trumping the league rate in efficiency in cashing out drives is through the passing game and particularly on third and fourth downs.
Tannehill’s 16 red zone passing touchdowns over that span have been bested by only Lamar Jackson (19) since he took over as the starter. Eight of those passing touchdowns have come on third or fourth down and Tannehill also has added three rushing touchdowns on third and fourth down in the red zone.
Running hot in the red zone, 13 (the most in the league) of those 31 team touchdowns (41.9%) have come on third or fourth down, with four of the six red zone touchdowns they’ve scored in the postseason coming on those downs.
Under Tannehill, the Titans have run 21 red zone plays on third or fourth down. That only ranks 24th in the league. But 18 of those 21 plays on third or fourth down have resulted in a first down or a touchdown (85.7%). The rest of the league in those situations has converted a first down or touchdown on 40.2% of their plays over that span. Tannehill himself has thrown a pass or run on 16 of those 21 plays while Henry has touched the ball just three times on those plays.
Over the same time frame, the Chiefs have had the third-best defense on third and fourth downs in the red zone. During that time, they’ve allowed just 0.8 yards per play on third and fourth down in the red zone and have allowed a first down conversion or a touchdown on 29.2% of those plays, which also ranks third in the league since Week 7.