Red zone efficiency down for 19 NFL teams 7 weeks into season

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambles away from Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack during the second half of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. (Associated Press)
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambles away from Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack during the second half of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. (Associated Press)

The red zone has become a danger zone for many NFL offenses.

Nineteen teams are scoring touchdowns at a lower rate inside the opponents’ 20-yard line than they did last season.

The list includes the teams that finished Nos. 1-8 in red zone efficiency in 2022. The Cowboys are down from 71.43 percent to just 39.13 percent. The Chiefs are at 57.14 percent, down from 71.08 percent. The Eagles have gone from 68 percent to 50 percent.

The Falcons-Buccaneers matchup featured plenty of red zone malfunctions. Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder fumbled three times inside the 15, including twice at the 1, and yet the Falcons beat the Buccaneers 16-13.

Tampa settled for three field goals in the red zone, including a missed opportunity to take the lead late in the game after getting a first down at the Falcons 8. Baker Mayfield threw two incomplete passes, got sacked and the Buccaneers left Atlanta enough time to drive for the win.

“We’re really close. That’s what is just so frustrating about it is we’re not able to finish, but we’re right there,” Mayfield said.

The Commanders had a first down at the Giants 12 down 14-7 late in the game, but Sam Howell threw incomplete on consecutive passes from the 7. On Washington’s previous possession, they had a first down at the 16, but the drive stalled and a 27-yard field-goal try was blocked.

“We did a lot of good things, and unfortunately, we didn’t capitalize,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ll continue to work on it. We’ll continue to look at the things we’re doing and evaluate what we’re doing, and we’ll get those things corrected.”

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs finished strong by scoring touchdowns on three straight trips inside the red zone in a 31-17 win against the Chargers. They hope to build off that success and get back to being closer to automatic.

“When he’s on fire like that, that’s something that’s fun to watch for all of us,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes. “Like I’ve said before, we’re lucky to have him here in Kansas City.”

III

Brock Purdy is suddenly throwing ill-advised passes into coverage and making mistakes he hadn’t made since his sensational start for the San Francisco 49ers.

Purdy threw interceptions on San Francisco’s final two possessions in a 22-17 loss Monday night at Minnesota.

His struggles coincide with key injuries to do-it-all receiver Deebo Samuel and All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. Star running back Christian McCaffrey also missed part of a loss at Cleveland in the previous game.

With a full complement of playmakers and blockers, Purdy has played at an MVP level. Without some of those talented guys, he’s been ordinary.

The 49ers (5-2) now have to bounce back from consecutive losses on a short week against a tough opponent when Joe Burrow and the Bengals (3-3) visit San Francisco.

They’ll need Purdy to protect the ball and make better decisions.

III

Two-time All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett somehow doesn’t get enough attention despite being a big-time game-wrecker for the Cleveland Browns. Garrett became the first player to get at least two sacks and two forced fumbles and block a field goal in the same game since 2000. His standout performance helped the Browns beat Indianapolis 39-38.

If Garrett, who has 7½ sacks this season, continues to dominate on a defense that’s ranked No. 1 in the NFL, he could earn some MVP consideration.

“I said it before, he’s the best defensive player in the league, and he’s going to go down as one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game,” Browns cornerback Greg Newsome said. “So glad to have him on our team. And a guy like that was able to make so many plays for us out there and bail us out a few times. So, it’s just amazing to have him on our team.”

III

The No. 1 teams in the AFC and the NFC are familiar with being at the top. The Chiefs and Eagles are both off to 6-1 starts after finishing first in their conferences last season and meeting in a thrilling Super Bowl that was won by Kansas City.

They’ve clearly separated themselves again seven weeks into this season.

The 49ers (5-2) have lost two in a row. The Dolphins (5-2) have only defeated teams with losing records. The Cowboys (4-2) have had their issues. The Lions (5-2) were destroyed by the Ravens (5-2). The Bills (4-3) have played poorly in their past three games.

If power rankings meant anything, Baltimore and the Jaguars (5-2) would have to be behind Philadelphia and Kansas City.