Red Zone Woes

If you think the Colts struggled in the red zone in the playoff loss to San Diego, you're right. But their issues inside the 20 and in goal-to-go situations were not limited to the postseason.

Without a doubt, the 2007 season was a disappointing one in terms of red zone efficiency for the normally prolific Colts offense.  The Colts ranked 10th overall with a 56.5 percent touchdown conversion rate for the regular season, 55.6 percent including the post season.

Of Adam Vinatieri's 27 field goal attempts, 16 were from less than 30 yards, meaning that the line of scrimmage on over half of his field goal attempts was from the 12-yard line or closer. 

In goal-to-go touchdown efficiency, Peyton Manning's offense fared much better, with a touchdown conversion rate of 73 percent for the regular season, 71.8 percent including the post season.  This would tend to indicate that they were so effective inside the 10-yard line because of their focus on the running game this season, but a look into previous seasons shows that not to be the case.

Adam Vinatieri was called on often near the goal line
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Manning attempted 515 passes this season, which is down from the 557 he attempted in 2006, but up from 497 in 2004 and 453 in 2005.  The 2005 team, though they were also eliminated at home in the divisional round, is widely considered the most talented and dominant squad of the past few seasons.

With the fewest pass attempts of any team in the past four years, they surely were dominant in the red zone and especially when facing a 1st and goal situation.

This is not the case, though, since the 2005 squad had the second-lowest touchdown percentage (60.3), the second lowest league ranking (fifth), and the lowest goal-to-go percentage (64.1) of the past four seasons.

The best team of them all was the most prolific passing team, the 2004 Colts.  They had the highest overall percentage in the red zone (63.5), the second-best league ranking (fourth), and the best overall goal-to-go percentage (75.0).  They were also the most consistently excellent red zone team on a game-by-game basis, registering six perfect performances throughout the course of the 2004 season.

No other Indianapolis team in the last four years registered more than a third as many perfect games, with the 2005 and 2006 teams racking up two apiece and the 2007 squad reaching perfection only once.

What is most interesting is the Colts team that dominated the regular season: The 2006 World Champion Indianapolis Colts.  The 2006 team had the highest league ranking in red zone efficiency at second and tallied up the highest conversion rates inside the 20 (66.1 percent) and inside the 10 (77.1 percent).  However, they finished lower in the overall rankings — regular season and playoffs included — because they played the most postseason games of any team of the four and also happened to finish an abysmal 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) in the red zone and 4 for 7 (57.1 percent) in goal-to-go during their run to the Super Bowl title.

In analyzing the information, it's clear that regular season dominance does not translate into postseason success, as Indianapolis has discovered numerous times throughout the years.

The interesting aspect of all of this is that the team that had the worst success rates in the postseason is the one that won the Super Bowl. This goes to show that a 1-for-3 effort in the red zone and a 1-for-2 showing in goal-to-go was not the sole cause for the Colts loss on Sunday. Manning and the Colts were able to overcome their red zone maladies in the 2006 playoffs because they avoided turnovers and stayed resilient.

A poor red zone performance was only one facet of Sunday's loss: Three turnovers on the opponent's side of the field, a lack of focus in the second half on defense, and a lack of patience and "taking what the defense gives you" from Manning himself are more to blame than poor red zone statistics.

It takes a team effort to beat an opponent like Indianapolis and it took a team effort on the part of the Colts to lose in the Divisional Round at home.

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