While the most anticipated clash of Sunday night’s clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans may revolve around Mike Pettine’s defense against All-Pro running back Derrick Henry, another crucial chess match looms in the shadows, and is one in which the Packers should enjoy a great advantage.
Two important situations, when the Packers are on the attack, can play as important a role in deciding Sunday night’s winner as Henry against the Green Bay defense.
The importance of the confrontation is shocking due to the Packers’ potential for supremacy.
The Titans’ attack has been great both on the third downhill and in the red zone, ranking in the top ten in each category, but it’s a very different story for Mike Vrabel’s defense. In fact, there may not be a worse situational defense in football this season.
The Titans’ defense ranks last in the third descent conversion percentage (52.6) and 30th in the red zone touchdown percentage (70.9), a potentially disastrous combination of situational incompetence when facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers .
Matt LaFleur’s team may have the best situational attack in football. Packers are third in the NFL in third (49.1) and first in the red zone (78.4).
Despite some difficulties in finishing the game last Saturday night against the Carolina Panthers, the Packers have been dominant and consistent in their third down.
Rodgers leads the NFL in passing yards on the third down, and is second in passing touchdowns and yards per attempt and third in passer classification. The Davante Adams receiver is first in receiving yards and second in receptions on the first descent on the third descent. Receivers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and tight end Robert Tonyan managed 31 receptions in third for 29 first runs. Rodgers even fought for the first eight runs on the third run.
The Titans allowed three times more touchdown passes on the third down (nine) than on the third down (three). Five different defenders posted a passer rating of 100.0 on the third run against the Titans, and they have been terrible at defending the third and short. Of the 92 submissions against the Titans on the third down, 74 won on the first down. And running the ball on the third descent converted 28 times into 42 attempts.
The red zone – or golden zone, as the Packers call it – has been a magical place for green and gold. Packers are approaching an 80 percent touchdown rate when entering the 20-yard line, largely due to Rodgers. He leads the NFL with 29 touchdown passes in the red zone, and he shuffled three other scores. Overall, the two-time MVP accounted for 32 of the Packers’ 40 red zone touchdowns.
The Titans allowed 39 touchdowns in the red zone in defense, highlighting the group curve, but also the interval style.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say third descent and the red zone will decide the game on Sunday night. Or at least go a long way in determining a winner. Both offenses are dominant in situational football, but only one defense is in contention for the worst in the NFL in the third down and in the red zone.
Henry can be productive for the Titans, but the Packers can do a lot more damage if Rodgers and the attack take advantage of the greater incompatibility of the confrontation.