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How the Titans fared in the red zone in 2011: quarterbacks

It’s time for part two of my series on how the Titans fared in the red zone in 2012. I covered the running backs in part one, and now it’s time to write about Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker.

As I noted in part one, the Titans were a very good team offensively in the red zone, finishing tied for fourth in scoring percentage and fifth in points per red zone possession. That was despite a run game that was ineffective for most red zone carries. The passing game was fairly proficient at getting to the end zone, with 38% of red zone possessions ending in a touchdown pass, good for eighth in the league.

Virtually all of that work was turned in by Matt Hasselbeck; overall, the Titans called 68 designed passes in the red zone, and Hasselbeck was the quarterback on 57 of them. As you’d expect from the team results, he wasn’t bad on those plays. I noted during the season Greg Cosell’s praise for his red zone performance, specifically his ability to adapt to the increased speed of the game. Hasselbeck ended the season sixth in the league in red zone passing DVOA.

Hasselbeck was especially proficient in what I termed the deep red zone, from the 11-20 yard lines, where the run game struggled so badly. In that intermediate area, he completed 23 of 35 attempts (63%). To put that into context with yesterday’s numbers, the Titans posted a below-average 20% Success Rate on runs in the deep red zone, compared to a league-average of roughly 46%. While I don’t normally use success rate on passing plays, Hasselbeck’s was 42%, compared to a league-average of roughly 37%.

However, Hasselbeck was less effective closer to the goalline, completing 11 of 19 passes but only 7 of those completions were successful; while both third-down failures were converted into scores on fourth down, his success rate was only 33% compared to a basically-identical league-average of roughly 37%. Yes, league-wide, running is more efficient than passing close to the goal-line.

As to Jake Locker, with only 11 plays to look at, it’s hard to say much about his performance in the red zone. Overall, he graded out as below average by DVOA; I assume that’s largely because of his failed very valuable plays at the end of the Saints game. He had only four plays in the deep red zone all year, all on the Titans’ final possession of the game in Indianapolis against the Colts. He completed his first-down pass to CJ for 6 yards (a successful play), then threw three incompletions. As I wrote after that game, Locker’s entire performance that day came in garbage time. 

Beyond that final drive against the Colts, Locker had four other red zone chances on the season. Against the Falcons, he threw two incompletions from the 4 before throwing a touchdown pass to Nate Washington. He scrambled for a 6-yard score on first-and-goal against the Saints. He threw incomplete to Marc Mariani and then was sacked on the final play against the Saints. He threw a touchdown pass to Nate Washington from the 7 earlier in the Colts game. Overall, um, yeah.

Just for the sake of completeness, here are the stat tables for both quarterbacks:

QB Comp Att Yards TD INT ANYPA
Hasselbeck 34 54 222 11 0 7.35
Locker 3 9 27 1 0 6.36

In addition to the conventional stats, I added my preferred comprehensive passing statistic, Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt. That incorporates sacks and gives bonus points for touchdowns (positive) and interceptions (negative). I also manually added in Locker’s scramble (and touchdown). And, yes, neither quarterback threw an interception in the red zone last year.

I’ll look at the wide receivers and add some more thoughts on what the passing game’s red zone performance meant to the Titans’ season as a whole in 2011 in part three, then turn my eyes to the defense in parts four and five.