Ultimately, the best way to judge any defense is by the number of points allowed.
There is any number of ways for opposing offenses to pile up meaningless yards or other statistics. If they can’t score, though, those other numbers are virtually meaningless.
In that regard, the Tennessee Titans defense never has been better.
It is not just the fact that Tennessee leads in the NFL in scoring defense following Sunday’s 31-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Its 56 points against is one better than the Baltimore Ravens and seven better than the Washington Redskins.
It is that for the first time in franchise history, including all the years as the Houston Oilers, none of the first four opponents have scored more than 16 points.
“You look at the defensive side of the ball and at [coordinator] Jerry [Gray] and his group are doing a lot of good stuff,” coach Mike Munchak said. “It’s week in and week out different guys making plays.”
In 2008, the Titans allowed just 46 points through the first four weeks of the season, but gave up 17 to Minnesota in the last of those games. It was not until the seventh game that an opponent scored as many as 20.
That year Tennessee finished 13-3, the best record in the NFL.
“At the beginning of the year, we came in and that’s what we talked about — championship teams and the amount of points they give up,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “Right now, I’m not sure where we’re at but I know it’s a low number. That’s what we strive for. We want to keep offenses from scoring touchdowns, and if they do get down in the red zone try to make them kick field goals.”
Thus far, opponents have scored five touchdowns and kicked seven field goals. They have made it inside the Titans’ 20 six times. From there, they kicked three field goals scored two touchdowns and once (Denver) were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Tennessee also leads the league in average yards per play yielded (4.4).
“Right now everything is clicking,” defensive end Jason Jones said. “If we continue to prepare like we’ve been doing every week, we’ll have many more wins.”
Back in 2000, Tennessee lead the league in fewest total yards and passing yards allowed and was third in fewest rushing yards allowed.
The Baltimore Ravens, led by Ray Lewis, allowed the fewest points and ultimately won the Super Bowl. In so doing, they earned a place as one of the league’s all-time great units.
Even that team, though, was ripped for 36 points in the second week of the season. After that, it settled in and held 12 of the next 13 opponents to fewer than 20 points with three shutouts.
“Throughout the week, you get that gameplan and find out what the offense likes to do,” McCourty said. “You want to go out on Sundays and shut teams down. We know … we’re going to be able to stop offenses.”