The Titans’ red zone offense had been one of the best in the NFL until recent weeks. Heading into their week 11 matchup with the Packers the Titans led the NFL in red zone TD % with 76.19%. Following their loss to the Eagles, they rank #6 with 62.5%.
What has gone so wrong?
Teams are selling out to stop Henry in the red zone and that means being content with someone like Austin Hooper scoring two TDs as he did against the Packers. That said, the Titans remain stubborn and still do their typical two or three Henry runs in the red zone. That is becoming less effective each week but the Titans don’t seem to care and are willing to keep running into a brick wall. The Titans’ offensive line down Ben Jones and Taylor Lewan isn’t good enough to just run on anyone and we’ve seen that recently.
In their loss to the Bengals, the Titans went 0-3 in the red zone. Not only did they not score a touchdown but they missed a FG. Just six points in three red zone trips won’t cut it in the NFL.
The first trip consisted of the following three plays:
- Incomplete pass to Geoff Swaim
- Henry one-yard rush
- Incomplete pass to Woods
I’m not sure what needs to happen for Swaim to stop being targeted in the passing game, he has hands like Paul Bunyan. The increased target volume for Woods has been encouraging and I hope to see that succeed moving forward.
The second trip came at the end of a two-minute drill that was executed efficiently by Ryan Tannehill. After a 10-yard catch by WR Robert Woods to get Tennessee into the red zone, the three-and-out commenced: Two yard pass to Dontrell Hilliard, incomplete pass to Austin Hooper, incompletion to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Rookie kicker Caleb Shudak missed a 35-yard field goal which was a gut punch going into halftime.
Aside from the missed field goal, not many complaints from me with this red zone trip. Given the situation and only one timeout, the play selection wasn’t bad. The one issue I have is that Henry wasn’t on the field for one snap during this red zone trip. His presence alone helps the offense out significantly near the goal line.
The final red zone trip was set up by a Treylon Burks 51-yard catch and a roughing the passer penalty. Three plays from the Bengals’ 12-yard line and the Titans couldn’t get in the end zone, which is unacceptable. The three plays: two Henry runs and an incomplete pass to rookie TE Chig Okonkwo. Settling for a field goal when you have 2nd and 5 at the Bengals’ 7 is simply bad.
Henry had a gain of 5 to start the red zone trip, so it’s tough to blame two Henry carries, but it was predictable. It’s hard to find a bigger fan of Chig than myself, but a pivotal third down probably doesn’t need to go to him at this point. Settling for the FG was bad and effectively the difference in the game.
Now for the Eagles game. Before starters were pulled in Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia, the Titans had just one trip in the red zone. That trip resulted in a FG, meaning this was yet another game without a red zone TD. Frankly, there isn’t much to discuss from the one red zone trip. Tannehill threw incomplete to Henry, and one completion to Austin Hooper before a Dennis Daly penalty-sack combo (shocker!).
Now how can the Titans fix their red zone troubles in a game like this you may ask? The first fix is being more creative in scoring range. The biggest thing the Titans can do is to get Burks involved in the red zone (once he returns, of course…). Burks didn’t get a single target in the red zone vs the Bengals. The rookie WR has looked great since coming back from turf toe and needs to be more involved. Burks once again flashed vs the Eagles getting the Titans’ lone TD while taking a rough helmet-to-helmet hit, ending his day and sending him into concussion protocol.
Another thing is using Austin Hooper more often down there than he has been. We saw against the Packers where Hooper had two touchdown catches that he can be a real weapon situationally. Using Chig like the Titans used Jonuu Smith in the red zone would be beneficial as well. He doesn’t have the same size but he has all the speed that Smith did. Tennessee can use him on some jet sweeps, screens or some of those shuffle passes like you see the Chiefs use with Travis Kelce.