Titans analysis: Numbers don’t lie. Offense is king

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 11:53pm

A strong defense is still a vital element to NFL success, but for the league’s most successful teams in 2007, a high-powered offense is just as much or more a key component of winning football.

With the New England Patriots leading the way at 13-0, the NFL’s top contenders are making more and more of a statement that offense is a key part of punching a playoff ticket.

In all, 13 teams have scored at least 300 points this season, and 10 of those currently hold playoff spots. Of the three non-playoff 300-point teams, the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals are still in the NFC playoff picture at 6-7, meaning only the 5-8 Cincinnati Bengals have no real postseason hopes remaining.

Just how vital has offense become to a team’s success?

The league’s top four scoring teams — the Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers — are a combined 47-5 this season, and all four are headed to first-round playoff byes in their respective conferences.

By contrast, only two teams that have scored fewer than 300 points this season would currently get a playoff invitation. The New York Giants, who are just below the 300-threshold at 290 points scored, currently hold the top NFC wild-card spot at 9-4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are leading the NFC South with an 8-5 mark and just 255 points scored, 18th best in the league.

The Bucs, who are second in the league in points allowed with 215, are the only current playoff team among 13 teams averaging less than 20 points per game.

Scoring 300 points through 13 games averages out to just over 23 points per game. And while that is roughly only a field goal more than what the Buccaneers average, it is an amazing dividing line this season in the NFL.

Only two other teams averaging less than 20 points per game even have winning records — the Tennessee Titans who are 7-6 and have scored 249 points this season and the Buffalo Bills, who are also 7-6, despite just 222 points scored this season.

Defensively, that 20-point mark is a strong dividing point as well. In games where teams gave up at least 21 points, the team that allowed an opponent to reach that number won just 25 percent of the time, or precisely 50 times versus 152 losses. The Titans are 1-5 in such games, and only the Patriots (4-0), Cowboys (5-1) and Packers (3-2) boast a winning record in games where they yielded 21 or more points.

Offensively, another key element in producing points is explosiveness and the ability to strike quickly with game-changing plays.

“Big plays” are described by Stats. Inc., as gains of 20 or more yards, whether by run or pass. Of the eight teams who have 50 or more big plays this season, seven of those teams would be in the playoffs currently, with only the Denver Broncos on the outside looking in. Tennessee has 31 such plays this season with 11 runs and 20 pass plays better than 20 yards.

The popular notion would appear to put a major emphasis on the passing game, and that is true with many of the teams who are relying on their quarterbacks to throw touchdown passes.

Tom Brady leads the way with 45 TD passes, threatening Peyton Manning’s record of 49 set in 2004. Behind Brady, Dallas’ Tony Romo has 35 touchdown passes, Manning has 27, Cleveland’s Derek Anderson and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger are both at 26, and Brett Favre of Green Bay and Matt Hasselbeck of Seattle both have 24.

But the running game can still work effectively, too, provided there is a home run threat in the backfield. Standout rookie Adrian Peterson and backup Chester Taylor (1,916 yards and 17 rushing TDs combined) are carrying the load for the suddenly potent Minnesota Vikings, whose 17 rushing “big plays” lead the NFL.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew (1,599 yards and 11 rushing TDs combined) are doing similar work in Jacksonville in a run-first offense.

The playmaking abilities of San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlison and Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker are readily evident as those teams make a playoff push as well.

As the regular season winds down, the numbers don’t lie: Big plays and big scores can open an easier path to big success.

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By: rgolTN on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Finally someone recognizes the reality of Fisher-ball! Fisher is a just-above average coach and so is this team. They should be 10-3 right now, but the coaching staff's conservative play calling, lack of ccreativity and lack of desire to "open up" the offense and try new things lost them three games (Bucs, Broncos and Chargers). The only aggressive thing this team does is go to the "no-huddle." Blah, Blah, Blah...9-7 or 8-8 > Average all day long!

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Or it could be that VY and the receivers are just inconsistent. I have not seen the conservative play you speak of. I have seen a good mix of passing, running, and play action. The defense is playing lights out but are on the field too long because the offense is having too many incomplete passes.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Two problems with the Titans offense, no playmakers and the approach. What Titan offensive player scares other teams? VY used to but teams figured out how to stop him from beating them, make him think and play QB. Christy Brown if he's healthy. LenWhale White, only if the race is to a buffet or a Krispy Kreme. The WRs can't get away from anyone except Renaldo Hill. Their approach seems to always be to the outside and the receiver is rarely moving when he catches the ball, plays outside seldom make big yards, it's plays in the middle that can make yards. Watch teams that score points and you'll see most of their plays that gain big yards are in the middle of the field, often to a tight end or a slot receiver. A team doesn't have to have to have great receivers if you have a guy who can go in the middle and a QB who can get it to him.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Good article, Terry. There was something...familiar...about that loss to the Chargers.I was sitting there in the 4th Quarter, watching, with a 2-touchdown lead. I had a gut feeling that something bad was going to happen. Watching run play after run play, burning time off the clock, instead of aggressively going for more points. That bad feeling actually started when Bironas missed that field goal. That's something that just doesn't happen often...then, the 'hold the lead, burn the clock' play calling. Wimpy and weak.So reminiscent of Vanderbilt...

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Ah yes, the arm chair coaches come out to play.If they had been overly aggressive and gone three and out or turned the ball over how many of you would be in here saying "you have to run the ball and try to run out the clock". LOL

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Titan1, no offense, but do you seriously think VY called an audible on those four 3rd & less than 2yd PASS plays during regulation Sunday? How can anyone argue that that isn't bad coaching? As for the sequence at our own goal line, sounds like you took a quote straight from Fisher's mouth - "you don't want a turnover there" - what the heck is punting the ball from the back of your own endzone in OT? A TURNOVER! They only have to pick up 15yds with an offense that is clicking, HAS L.T., has four downs to get it, and is playing a defense that is completely gassed. That kind of careful, CONSERVATIVE thinking is exactly what is wrong with this franchise. Sometimes in life you have to take chances. That mythical belief that teams would be stumbling over each other buying out their coaches' contracts and fighting over signing Fisher is a local legend. Why in the heck would everyone be so hell bent on bringing in a guy that has proven repeatedly over the course of time to a .500 coach? As for the Chargers' getting lucky, they did get lucky on the toss. They got lucky on two punts. They got lucky on a few third down plays in regulation. They got lucky one the play where LaBoy had Rivers in his grasp and he stilll threw a touchdown to LT. They had every single break and bounce they needed to win. There is a saying "You make your own luck." Ultimately, it doesn't matter. When you go up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you don't lose the game. Period. No excuses. That is the painful truth about Fisher's conservative philosophy on both sides of the ball. It didn't just happen Sunday, it's happened all year long. It's happened for eleven years. Think about it. When was the last time we really put a team away? (Ok, I'll give you the Saints game - that was an anomoly.)When was the last time we had an offensive gameplan that really attacked? When Volek came in for an injured McNair? Wasn't he throwing to the same receivers that Fisher kept blaming for not getting open? Billy exposed Fisher's lie, & didn't obey his "keep it close and find a way to win

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Cowboy84, don't forget, Fisher doesn't like quick slants, post routes, or any other pattern that requires the receiver to be moving when the ball gets there so he can R.A.C.! Oh, wait a minute - I forgot - we haven't found one receiver in eleven years who can "get open"! My bad. Let's stick to the button hooks!

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Billy Voleck is not a very good QB, JBF. That's why he was on that plane out of Tennessee, and that's why he stunk up the field for two plays (including an interception) last Sunday. Didn't you hear the boos?From the San Diego sideline~!

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

gdiafante, Wow! You are so brilliant with your infinite wisdom! Can you share your vast, superior knowledge with me so I can learn? I am just a lowly arm chair quarterback, you know, not just a concerned, ticket buying fan or anything like that. Do you have a crush on Fisher, or are you just a big fan of mediocrity?

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

GD has a crush on one-hand typing. Explains much, JBF....

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

serr8d, yes, I heard the boos of the classless. I also heard the boos when Lorenzo Neal was hopping off with a broken leg - does that make it right? Not a very good QB? I'm certainly not going to claim he is a GREAT QB, but he somehow managed to put up about 1300 or so yards over a three game stretch with the same players Steve had around him. He actually played much better that season than any QB this team has had since Warren Moon. Unfortunately, he also had the misfortune of also having the most depleted defense they've ever had. His main flaw was his inability to move around in the pocket, something which he talked with Steve about during his last off season here, and he showed considerable improvement in that area in the preseason. Joe Montana wouldn't have done any better in the situation Billy was put in Sunday. Fisher has everyone brainwashed.P.S. IF you get your spleen ruptured in a game, stay in and win, then get to the hopital just before you die, shouldn't that merit some loyalty? Not from Jeff Fisher!

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I guess you can add Norv Turner to that lack of loyalty list, JBF. Because he's the one who decides who plays and when.If Voleck was so good, and still practices with San Diego, then it seems to me he had a gift of opportunity Sunday to show some stuff. He didn't...because he couldn't. For a backup QB to not have enough juice for 2 plays is unforgivable in the NFL.Look for him much less in the future...

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Actually June, I can't stand the Titans or Fisher, but I love to see you whine about it.Would you like a tissue?

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

GD: one-hand typing, the other engaged in self-indulgence...

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Enough of your twisted fantasies Serr. You really are a degenerate.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

jbf, it is not local legend, if Fisher was fired, he would have his pick of just about any NFL head coaching job and at his price. Blaming him, is making him a scapegoat.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Titan1 - where is this great prophecy documented? You're right. Atlanta would kill to have him right now. (and I mean RIGHT NOW - before Sunday) As for the scapegoat connotation, can you say Al DelGreco? All time scoring leader in franchise history. "Automatic Al". Miss a kick and have one blocked and all that is OUT THE WINDOW! It's OUT THE DOOR WITH YOU!! The the reason for all of our failures! The "original" scapegoat. He was also the most beloved player in our in community at the time. None of that matters to Jeff. It's all about Jeff and his enormous ego.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

serr8d, I never said Volek was BETTER than Rivers - he's not. Rivers has uncanny leadership abilities for given his relative "youth" in the league. Not many quarterbacks would have fared any better in that situation. Rivers didn't, and he is a better QB, has started the last three years, and took all the snaps in practice. The ONLY thing he could succeed in Sunday under that much duress was handing the ball to LT, and unfortunately for the Titans, he did finally figure that out just in time. P.S. If Norv had ANY wisdom whatsoever, he would have looked at the facts, listened to LT, and figured out in the off season what he finally was forced to figure out Sunday.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

gdiafante, the Preds are staying - you win. Why so bitter? Seriously though, I hear you. It's all in good fun. I'm just bored because I'm stuck in the house for a month after surgery last week. Nothing better to do. Merry Christmas to ya'

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 7:00

If offense is King, then that lets the Titans out. (which they are)

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

gdiafante, I've got some stuff to do, so I have to go, but I'll leave you with this ...WAAAAAAHHHHHH!WAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!SNIFF,SNIFF,WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I want mommy! Figured I'd brighten your day before I left - I'm out.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Well June, I hope you have a speedy recovery following your lobotomy and Merry Christmas to you as well.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I would like to see what kind of success Fisher would have with another organization. I'm not hoping that he leaves, I think it would be interesting to see if he would be Jimmy Johnson or Bill Belichick.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I guess it depends on the QB. What was Belichick's record at Cleveland again?

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

gdiafante, just curious, why don't you like the Titans?

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I don't know Titan1, I used to but I guess the conservative style combined with poor draft choices have just put me off. At least past teams were somewhat exciting to watch but the current team, the offense specifically, is just brutal and despite all the correct sound bites, nothing's changing.I think change is good and sometimes longevity breeds staleness. I wonder if Fisher would have gotten his extension if Bud had waited a few games.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I guess we all look at things differently, but I guess living here all my life and finally having our own team, I love them win or lose. I love watching them play, going to all the games, tailgating, the whole game day experience. I really don't think coach Fisher is that conservative, I see a good mix of play action, running the ball, and passing. I think VY and the receivers are just too inconsistent to sustain many good drives and long strikes. But it being VYs only second season, I'm not worried and looking forward to an even brighter future. JMHO.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I'M BAAAACK!! (& I'm not happy - just went to Cool Springs to grab a couple of gifts. Figured on spending about $100 bucks. Ended up with $240). Apparently you were right about the lobotomy thing, gdiafante. Nice one there, by the way! I fear that this "momentary lack of reason" (thanks David Gilmore), resulting from my lobotomy, which obviously must have gone horribly wrong, will not only have us eating dried beans and potatoes through the holidays, but may drive me into a state of deep depression, possibly causing the content of my posts to sound strangely not unlike your own. Your last post was well stated BTW, but be careful! The middle paragraph (Who uses paragraphs anymore - really?) sounded just a tiny bit whiny. cowboy84 - what the *@%! are you smoking, and could I have some please? Belichick? Was that a funny? Well at least there would be a fairly seamless transition in the smug & arrogant department, I guess! Bill has all the personality of a petrified turd, but there's no denying he is a brilliant coach, if not the best ever. (No - I'm not a Pats fan by any stretch of the imagination - but I have MAD respect for what they are continuing to accomplish.)My posts are way too long. I need to find some way to break them up. I know - paragraphs! It's my verbal diarrhea thing. I thought the lobotomy would help but...I have to go change my head dressing now, it is oozing and obstructing my visioonsdoho^%*G*4f9...