Titans' third-down success not translating

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For all the deficiencies the Titans have shown this season, their third-down production on both sides of the ball has been nearly spectacular.

The Titans' offense is converting 43 percent of its chances, sixth best in the NFL. The Titans' defense is holding opponents to 33.3 percent, fourth best in the NFL.

Only four teams in the league rank in the top 10 in both third-down offense and third-down defense: Carolina, Detroit, Tennessee and Washington.

Third-down success is so important; it’s surely a key to the success the Panthers and Lions are having this season. They’re both in the playoff mix.

It’s odd that the Titans (5-8) and Washington (3-10) are so good on third down and have such infrequent success on the broader scale.

Sunday in Denver, the Broncos were only 5-for-13 on third down on a day they scored 51 points. But what it hides is how many first downs the Broncos earned on first, second and fourth down and by penalty. Denver has 39 first downs in the game. The total made the third-down defensive success moot.

I asked Mike Munchak a few weeks ago why a team so good on third down wasn’t getting the sort of overall results that typically comes with it.

“Turnovers, the timing of when we’re making plays and when we’re not,” Munchak said. “Third downs on offense, that’s when you’re really designing things to get open. We’ve done a great job there with that, using our guys smart, guys are getting a good feel for that. ...

“In the red zone, green zone, where we’re down there, we need those plays then. It’s kind of like the timing isn’t falling in the right spots where we can convert it to points all the time. On both sides of the ball, that’s the area of the field where we’ve got to get better, so that we can turn it into seven points instead of three or hold them. We do a lot of good things. Unfortunately it’s not always leading to as many points as it should.”