Running the Numbers: How to Succeed in the Red Zone in 2012
One of the biggest problems for the Cowboys in recent years has been red zone efficiency. The team has been mediocre in terms of red zone touchdown percentage, and they’ve even been bad in regards to red zone attempts. Over at DallasCowboys.com, I took a look at four ways to improve red zone performance in 2012. Here’s one of them:
The easiest way to increase red zone success is simply to get there more often. Last year, the New England Patriots recorded the most red zone trips per game with 4.6. The St. Louis Rams reached the red zone fewer times than any other team, getting there only 1.9 times per contest.
Red zone appearances are rather consistent; the same dominant offenses tend to get there the most each year. Red zone conversion rates, however, are fluky. Sub-par offenses like the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings, for example, all ranked in the top 10 in red zone scoring percentage in 2012.
Thus, red zone conversion rates tend to level out over the long run. The best way to score a lot of red zone touchdowns is simply to focus on getting there frequently. However, the Cowboys have ranked 16th or worse in red zone appearances each year since 2009.
Chances are you’ll see this offense improve dramatically in 2012 if they can increase their red zone appearances from 3.2 to around 4.0 per game–a mark only the Patriots, Saints, Eagles and Packers reached last season.
When I say getting to the red zone often will increase productivity, I mean it in the obvious way and a not-so-obvious way. The latter is that acquiring a large sample size of red zone appearances will allow the Cowboys to regress toward the mean in terms of efficiency once in the red zone.
The ‘Boys have been really poor at converting red zone appearances into touchdowns over the years. Part of that is because of a poor short-yardage rushing attack, but most of it, I think, is just bad luck. Over really large sample sizes, teams don’t perform much differently in the red zone than they do on other portions of the field. Simply crossing the opponent’s 20-yard line often and generating even an average touchdown rate will allow the Cowboys to improve in 2012.