Seth Emerson returns to a subject we’ve harped on plenty here since the end of the last regular season, Georgia’s ineffective play on both sides of the ball when it’s inside the 20-yard line.
… The 20 yards beyond the end zone were calamitous for Georgia in general last year.
On defense, it was probably what kept a good unit from being great: Georgia ranked 114th nationally, and second-worst in the SEC, in red zone defense. It allowed opponents to score 90.7 percent of the time it got inside the 20, and to score touchdowns 74.4 percent of the time.
That was a major step backwards from 2015, when Georgia ranked third-best nationally in red zone defense. Opponents only scored 67.6 percent of the time inside the 20, and the touchdown rate was 50 percent.
“We work on that a little bit more, so we can perfect that, have a little better percentage next season,” Baker said.
On offense, Georgia’s red zone problem last year was just another problem area: The Bulldogs scored at least three points on 84.4 percent of trips there, which ranked 64th nationally. But it only managed a touchdown 55.6 percent of the time, which ranked 100th nationally.
If there’s a difference in the two, it’s that I would say the offensive red zone woes were more an extension of the general inefficiency we saw last season, whereas the defense played well outside of that area. Or, as Emerson puts it,
The offensive problems are easier to diagnose, because they’re symptomatic of what went wrong in general. Problems with blocking, by the line and on the perimeter. Play-calling that was too predictable at times. A freshman quarterback slowed down the offense, stalling momentum when drives got closer to the end zone….
Smart is correct about the team being “horrible” in the red zone offensively. But it was only part of the problem: Georgia had 45 red-zone offensive trips last year, but that only ranked 79th nationally. The Bulldogs got touchdowns on 25 of those trips. If they had penetrated the end zone 10 more times, then the 35 touchdowns still only would have ranked 39th nationally. Good, but not great.
The defense, on the other hand, can almost single-handedly point at red zone problems. Georgia’s opponents only had 43 such trips, tied for 37th nationally, but the success rate (39 times getting at least a field goal, and 32 touchdowns) is startling.
So, you can argue that if the staff can address the offense’s general problems, that should lead to more red zone success. On defense, though, it’s a little trickier. Davin Bellamy thinks “it’s all about attitude”. He’s referring to himself and his teammates there, but as I once speculated, I wonder if it’s more about coaching priorities. If I’m right, there’s a lot of factors in play that would have to be addressed.
I joke about the Auburn game that the key to keeping Auburn from scoring regularly from the red zone was to keep Malzahn’s offense out of the red zone, but that’s actually how things played out in Georgia’s most impressive defensive effort of the year.
The trick to that, though, isn’t simple or one-sided. You have to think turnover margin and field position play major roles in aiding a defense in keeping opponents from crossing its twenty. So does stopping teams on third downs, though. All of which has been a mixed bag for Georgia over the past few seasons.
All I’m saying here is, if indeed this is something that matters to Smart — and his track record at Alabama would indicate that it does — there’s a lot of work across the board left to be done.
Starting this spring.