Which Red Zone Defense can Come Up with a Stop?

With the top-2 red zone offenses facing off on Sunday night, this game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans could be decided by which defense can come up with a stop inside the 20.

Sunday night at Lambeau Field, we have two of the most productive offenses in the NFL squaring off as the Tennessee Titans come to town. 
 
The Titans are first in points per game scored while the Green Bay Packers rank third. Tennesse is second in total yards per game while the Packers rank fourth. And by Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, the Green Bay offense ranks second, with Tennessee right behind them in third. 
 
You get the idea--pretty much pick any major statistical offensive category, and there is a good chance that these two teams are near the top. So naturally, both of these teams have been lights out in the red zone -- or the gold zone depending on who you're talking to -- this season. 
 
Entering Week 16, the Green Bay Packers have the highest touchdown rate in the red zone, scoring six points 78.4 percent of the time. And as I'm sure you've already guessed, the Titans are right behind them in second, scoring a touchdown on 75.4 percent of their red zone trips. 
 
The Packers had the second-best red zone offense in 2019, scoring 67.8 percent of the time. So still very good, but a nearly 11 percent jump in success rate from one year to the next is massive.
 
This is partly due to the high-level of play from players such as Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan. The entire unit has taken a big step forward in Year 2 of the Matt LaFleur offense that has heavily utilized pre-snap motion, which has kept defenses off-balance. And, of course, Aaron Rodgers has been really good inside the 20. 
 
On 71 pass attempts in the red zone, Rodgers has completed 69 percent of them with 29 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 114.8. The man loves gold!
 
On the flip side, Tennessee has Derrick Henry, who is the NFL's leading rusher as he approaches the 1,700-yard mark and a league-leading 15 rushing touchdowns as well. While Henry draws much of the attention -- and understandably so -- receivers AJ Brown and Corey Davis have over 1,800 combined receiving yards this season and 15 total touchdowns. Not to mention that Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks this season off play-action.
 
Tannehill's 1,580 passing yards on play-action are the most in the NFL, and so are his 10.2 passing yards per attempt. He also has 12 touchdown passes, which ranks as the fourth most off play-action and his passer rating ranks 10th. 
 
So with two potent and explosive offenses, who both dominate in the red zone, this game could very well come down to which defensive unit can come up with a turnover or hold the opposing offense to a field goal. If that's the case, who is it going to be?
 
Well, I have some good news Packer fans, this is an area where Green Bay has a distinct advantage. Currently, Green Bay allows a red zone touchdown 62.2 percent of the time, which ranks 15th. Tennessee, however, has allowed a touchdown 70.9 percent of the time, and that ranks 30th. 
 
While I understand why many are concerned about this Green Bay defense facing Derrick Henry, what I don't believe is being discussed enough is what Rodges can do to this Tennessee defense. Truthfully, this unit just hasn't been very good this season. 
 
The Titan defense gives up the fourth-most passing yards per game, and they rank 22nd in points per game. On top of that, they've generated the fewest number of sacks in the NFL, and they're last in pressure rate as well. Overall this unit ranks 28th by DVOA. This is a recipe for Rodgers and company to have a lot of success on Sunday night, which means scoring a lot of points. 
 
In the Packers' case, it's not as if they are world beaters by any means, but this unit has been trending in the right direction, and they're coming off what I believe is their most complete performance of the season. Green Bay held Carolina to just one red zone touchdown on five trips, including coming away with a turnover. They also got off the field on third downs, pressured Teddy Bridgewater, and limited any explosive plays. 
 
Jaire Alexander has been putting together an All-Pro campaign all season long, and with the elevated play of both Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage over the last six weeks, overall, the Packer secondary has been very good. At linebacker, with Krys Barnes wearing the green dot and Kamal Martin seeing more playing time, this unit appears to be heading in the right direction--although admittedly, it's been a small sample size.
 
On the ground, where I know much of the concern lies, this unit has actually been playing well since the Minnesota game. Jacksonville's James Robinson found success averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and David Montgomery's numbers are a bit inflated from one run, but Green Bay held the Indianapolis running backs to 3.4 yards per carry, Detroit's to 3.2, and Mike Davis of Carolina to 4.2. 
 
This unit is never going to be great by any means, but in regards to any of the issues that this Green Bay team has had over the last month and a half, the run defense hasn't really been the big reason why. 
 
Now, having said all of that, the Titans are certainly a different animal than what Green Bay has faced as of late. This is easily the defense's toughest challenge since their matchup earlier in the season with New Orleans, and the odds are that Tennessee is going to put up points. But do you know what? So should the Packers' offense, and one red zone stop could make all the difference in this game. And as I've already pointed out, the Packers do have the advantage in this part of the field because of their defense. 
 
In most instances, there is always a myriad of reasons why a team either wins or loses. But on Sunday night, with two of the NFL's best offenses going head-to-head, it really could come down to which defensive unit can get a stop in the red zone. Let's hope it's the Packers that are able to do so. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

7 points

Comments (13)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Bearmeat's picture

December 25, 2020 at 01:16 pm

It's pretty clear: Avoid turnovers , special teams gaffes and an extended slump, and GB will win.

GB O = TEN O
GB D > TEN D

13 points
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dobber's picture

December 25, 2020 at 08:35 pm

Yup. TN is tied for best in the league in +/- at +12...Packers are tied for 8th at +5. So this TN defense which is very porous and has a hard time getting off the field gets timely TOs.

3 points
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Hematite's picture

December 25, 2020 at 02:03 pm

To win this game the Packers offense is going to have to play 60 minutes of football at a very high level to keep the Titans off the field.
Not 30, not 45, 60 and eat up as much clock as possible.

1 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

December 25, 2020 at 05:59 pm

How can the Packers offense play 60 minutes of offense? That would mean the Titans would play 0 minutes of offense. Pretty sure that's not happening.

0 points
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CoachDino's picture

December 25, 2020 at 09:03 pm

First off Merry Christmas to All..

Hem, IMO you made the most critical comment of the day.

Win Time Of Possession - Play to your ability every snap - IMO Couple examples of probable outcomes when these factor are met

Score (TDs) on a high % of your own possessions (preferably early on)
Force teams to play to the defenses strengths by acquiring a big lead as early as possible.

It really is a rare occasion when Arod plays great but the offense around him failed. It happens don't get me wrong but a strength of this offense is how seldom it does. They have a solid group of players as a whole including a few Stud Key players at the most critical positions.

If ARod plays at the elite level that he is capable of - The packers offense on a average day will win. Something that is touched on but seldom really driven into as a explanation of success. Probably because its so obvious and is so simple it doesn't lead to a diversified discussion/interest/articles/posts/money. So what the motivation to just repeat it.

Come on - Is it really on the defense?

The defense has very little chance of stopping Henry. Few teams ever do.
The Packers by design and due to flaws are not going to be an exception.
IMO - Don't sell out to the run. Henry is going to get his yards. The key IMO is to make sure they give up very few big plays - running or passing --- 25 or more yards. In time the game scenario is the best bet to slow down Henry with limited carries.

Should be a great game. Lets go Pack!!

2 points
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Leatherhead's picture

December 25, 2020 at 03:20 pm

Did the author just say our red zone defense is average? Like our run defense and our scoring defense?

Unless we beat ourselves, we’ll keep the Titans under 30.

6 points
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Bearmeat's picture

December 25, 2020 at 05:17 pm

Yeah. We'll see about that. I'm guessing we score in the high 30s and give up in the low 30s.

4 points
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Stroh's picture

December 25, 2020 at 06:30 pm

That's still a winning performance. Set a number you think the D has to keep Tenn under to win. I really think we'll score 35+. The number I think they give up is 31. Happily take that W!

3 points
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Bearmeat's picture

December 25, 2020 at 07:06 pm

Yep.

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:57 am

Nobody has scored more than 28 against us at Lambeau, the average is 20 ppg.

Tennessee is averaging 31. I predict we’ll hold them under their average.

1 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

December 25, 2020 at 06:48 pm

Don't forget 3rd down defense. Packers 15th. Titans dead last. There is no reason that the Packers' offense shouldn't roll all day long.

6 points
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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:05 am

Wow. A lot of stats here. But I’ll make it easier. Packers have prettier uniforms therefore they will win. And those uniforms have won over 73% of their games under MLF.

4 points
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egbertsouse's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:35 am

Like all those internet pundits and sports talk screamers I’m going to make a BOLD prediction! If AR plays well and they put up 40+ point ,they will win. If he plays like he did the 2nd half of the Carolina game, they lose. I also boldly predict that we will get snow here in Minnesota in January.

3 points
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