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How the Titans intercepted the ball in 2011, part one

After a little series on how the Titans were intercepted in 2011, it’s time to look at the defensive side of the ball and how the Titans intercepted the opposing team in 2011.

As I noted in that series, interception rates tend to fluctuate a bit. The Titans came out at 3.5%, +0.7% relative to league average in 2008. In 2009, they came out at 3.3%, +0.2% relative to league average. In 2010, they fell a little bit more, to 2.8%, 0.2% less than the league average. And finally, last year. I’m going to defray a broader discussion of last year until part two, which should run tomorrow, and jump straight into the analysis of how the Titans intercepted the other team last year in their first eight games of last year.

The normal play breakdown caveats apply. There is available all-22 footage for all of the interceptions in the Titans’ first eight games, but I still don’t know what the offensive or defensive call was. For these analyses, I’m concentrating on the things I saw that stood out to me as important relative to the interception; there may be other interesting things in the play I don’t write about, and things relative to the interception I’m not seeing and therefore not including in my analysis. I don’t know what a player was thinking on any given play, and I haven’t tried asking them either.

That out of the way, on with the breakdowns.

Week 1-at Jacksonville-Luke McCown-24 attempts, 0 INT
McCown would throw 4 interceptions on 19 attempts the next week against the Jets.

Week 2-vs. Baltimore-Joe Flacco-32 attempts, 2 INT
3-4-TEN 46 (1Q-8:21) (Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short left intended for L.Evans INTERCEPTED by A.Verner at TEN 35. A.Verner pushed ob at TEN 39 for 4 yards (L.Evans).
Verner isn’t at all threatened by Lee Evans’ deep speed, doesn’t start backpedaling, and easily undercuts on the out route. If he was going to throw this ball, which which he should not have, Flacco needed to put it farther to the outside. Horrible quarterbacking.

2-9-BLT 38 (4Q-14:12) J.Flacco pass deep right intended for E.Dickson INTERCEPTED by J.McCourty (C.Finnegan) at TEN 44. J.McCourty to BLT 26 for 30 yards (L.Evans).
Playcall is a bootleg to the offensive right. LDE Morgan does a good job of staying at home and forcing a quicker throw. Flacco seems to completely lose track of Finnegan, who’s lurking on zone coverage and picks up Dickson. Another ghastly decision to throw the ball, as Finnegan is standing between him and his intended receiver. Flacco’s only saving grace on this throw is Finny doesn’t make the interception himself and instead tips it up in the air where JMac comes down with it.

Week 3-vs. Denver-Kyle Orton-39 attempts, 2 INT
2-6-TEN 47 (2Q-10:23) K.Orton pass deep right intended for E.Decker INTERCEPTED by J.McCourty at TEN 22. J.McCourty to TEN 44 for 22 yards (E.Decker).Titans are in something like an inverted 2-deep coverage, and Decker finds the soft spot between the levels of the zones. Orton’s pass is a little too high and behind and goes off Decker’s hands, after which McCourty (one of the two deep defenders, nice coverage design) is once again the beneficiary of a fortunate deflection.

3-11-TEN 39 (4Q-1:46) (Shotgun) K.Orton pass short middle intended for B.Lloyd INTERCEPTED by W.Witherspoon (J.Jones) at TEN 31. W.Witherspoon to TEN 38 for 7 yards (E.Decker).Jason Jones, playing LDT, does a nice job with his inside rush. While the center picks him up on the double-team before he gets to Orton, he does get his hand up and tips Orton’s pass at the line. This time, it’s Witherspoon that’s the beneficiary of a fortunate deflection.

Week 4-at Cleveland-Colt McCoy-61 attempts, 1 INT
1-10-TEN 29 (3Q-2:49) C.McCoy pass deep right intended for P.Hillis INTERCEPTED by J.Babineaux [C.Finnegan] at TEN 3. J.Babineaux for 97 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
This looked like one of the worst plays in the NFL all season, as McCoy throws a pass right to Babineaux, who has an easy interception and manages to convert it into six points.  Even with the all-22, I’m not sure exactly what happened. McCoy was rolling right on the scramble drill, and (a) expected Massaquoi to cut in from the sideline and run deeper downfield, or (b) was looking for Hillis as he ran right and simply didn’t see Babineaux. Massaquoi did not, though, and Babineaux had no need to respond to his route. In terms of what the defense did, the Titans line up in a 2-deep shall, but appear to be doubling both outside receivers. McCoy eschews throwing to get the ball over the linebackers to Hillis, and Babineaux has an easy interception thanks to not overplaying Massaquoi.

Week 5-at Pittsburgh-Ben Roethlisberger-34 attempts, 1 INT
3-4-TEN 27 (2Q-:12) (No Huddle, Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right intended for E.Sanders INTERCEPTED by C.Finnegan at TEN 26.
C.Finnegan to TEN 34 for 8 yards (M.Wallace).An excellent break on the ball by Finnegan as he creeps down late and recognizes Roethlisberger’s call for a hot read, though his interception was greatly aided by some confusion on the part of the Steelers as to what play they were running.

Week 7-vs. Houston-Matt Schaub-23 attempts, 0 INT
I’ll let you know if I run across some part of this game that wasn’t a complete disaster. Right now, the closest thing I have is Jared Cook’s only red zone reception of the season.

Week 8-vs. Indianapolis-Curtis Painter-49 attempts, 2 INT
1-10-IND 38 (2Q-1:56) (Shotgun) C.Painter pass deep right intended for P.Garcon INTERCEPTED by M.Griffin (J.McCourty) at TEN 35. M.Griffin ran ob at TEN 35 for no gain (P.Garcon).
Nice job by McCourty of staying with Garcon on his vertical outside route, and getting his hand in there to deflect the pass, as Griffin comes over from his deep safety spot for the fortunate deflection.

3-4-IND 39 (4Q-8:27) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass short left intended for A.Collie INTERCEPTED by B.Ruud (J.Jones) at IND 42. B.Ruud to IND 38 for 4 yards (J.Richard).
Another tipped pass at the line by Jason Jones, who this time had lined up at LDE and got penetration but no pressure with a spin move. The recipient of the fortunate deflection this time is Ruud.

Week 9-vs. Cincinnati-Andy Dalton-39 attempts, 0 INT
As noted in yesterday’s post, Dalton was managed and manipulated in a conservative passing offense and was intercepted on a below-average 2.5% of passes.

That’s it for the first half of the season. Part two, which should run Friday, will analyze the second half of the season, draw some broader conclusions, and talk more generally about how the Titans intercepted the opponent in 2011.