Red zone failures an issue for Titans
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — On paper, it looks like an incredibly successful day. The Tennessee Titans got inside the Houston 20 nine times and scored each time.
The only problem? Seven of those were field goals as Rob Bironas kicked an NFL-record eight field goals in all.
“If we don’t turn the ball over twice, we might have 10,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday about that game. “You’d like to maybe get four touchdowns in those eight opportunities. That’s one of the lessons: our lack of ability to score touchdowns.”
The Titans (6-5) only wish that problem was limited to that game Oct. 21 in Houston when they pulled out a 38-36 win on Bironas’ eighth field goal. The Texans remain grateful they forced Tennessee to kick so often.
“I just think, if we didn’t hold them to field goals and they would have scored all those times they were in the red zone, that game would have really been ugly,” Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans said in a conference call.
Five games later, nothing much has changed.
Bironas remains the Titans’ best scorer and leads the NFL with his 26 field goals on 28 attempts, including 19 straight in a stretch that includes his record-setting day in Houston. His 96 points are second only to Green Bay’s Mason Crosby (98) among kickers.
That’s not good for an offense trying to snap a three-game skid when the Texans (5-6) visit Sunday. But moving the ball isn’t Tennessee’s problem.
Only New England, Indianapolis and Cleveland have gotten inside an opponent’s 20 more than Tennessee. But the Titans rank last in the NFL with 12 touchdowns scored in the red zone, instead settling for 19 field goals.
“I’m just out there trying to do my job when called upon and work hard to make as many kicks as I can,” Bironas said.
The Titans are coming off their second-worst such performance of the season. Bironas provided the only points in last week’s 35-6 loss to Cincinnati where the Titans got inside the Bengals 20 five times — three with goal-to-go.
And yes, they are getting touchy about the topic. Fisher said they are working on it.
“We’re getting down there. We just need to do a better job of getting into (the end zone). It has been a major problem, but we’re working at it and we recognize that,” he said.
“We don’t need to be told about it or asked about it, it’s just one of those things that we have to get better at.”
Identifying the problems is easy.
The Titans have seen themselves on film miss blocking assignments, botch snaps, fumble, drop passes in the end zone or simply not see open receivers waiting to catch touchdowns.
Center Kevin Mawae said they need to stay on the field and get into a groove to put points on the board.
“Three points are not enough. And if we stall out on the 20 or 25, that’s not good either,” he said.
Scoring TDs hasn’t been easy for Tennessee. The Titans have 18, but two were interception returns by Vincent Fuller. Only Atlanta (14), St. Louis (15), Kansas City (16) and Buffalo and Baltimore (17) have scored fewer, while Randy Moss in New England has 16 of the Patriots’ 58 himself.
Vince Young, who has 940 total yards of offense in the past three games yet scored only three TDs in that span, said they are determined to prove to Fisher, themselves and everyone else they can score.
“That’s what we’re working on right now,” he said.