The Cardinals want to get better on third-down conversions. It would allow them to keep the ball longer, it would put them in position to score more points. This is all Football 101.
Coach Bruce Arians said he was going to look at the issue during the bye week. There were not any stunning revelations. “It was pretty much what it thought it was—a conglomeration of mistakes, overthrows, bad balls, dropped passes, guys running wrong routes, not knowing each other quite well enough under some coverages, sacks, pressure,” Arians said. “It would’ve been a lot easier had I been able to put my finger on one or two things and just say ‘OK, this is what it is to fix.’ But, knowing that it’s a problem is one thing—identifying it—and then emphasizing every practice when there’s third down reps.”
The Cardinals started so well in the department — converting 7 of their first 12 third downs this season, playing the Rams — and then dropped off. Their conversion percentage of a little better than 31 percent is only a tad better than last season. Overall, the offense has been able to move the ball better than last year, in part because this team is better in generating a first down on more first- and second-downs this year. That speaks to an ability to gain yards on those early downs.
Here’s another point that will come as no revelation, but more as a factual backing to what everyone knows: The fewer yards the Cards need on third down, the better for conversions.
I know, shocking. But as frustrating as it has been to see the Cards throw a pass that gains two yards on third-and-3, the offense still gets those first downs much of the time. In the first eight games, the Cardinals have faced third down and less than four yards 23 times. They have gotten a first down on 15 of those, or 65.2 percent. When the Cards have third down and between 4-to-6 yards (26 times), they have 12 first downs ( 46.2 percent). On third down and between 7-to-10 yards, the Cards are only 7-for-33 (21.2 percent). And for the season, if the Cardinals have 11 yards or more to go on third down, they have yet to convert on 19 chances.
These numbers include a couple of kneel-downs and a couple of penalty conversions that don’t usually count in the third-down stats, but if the Cards can draw an offside on third-and-4, that counts just as much. As Arians said, there are a bunch of different reasons third downs aren’t working from an execution standpoint. An improved running game should help considerably. But weaving in the pass protection and Carson Palmer decision-making issues, and it isn’t surprising the numbers say the Cards have a tough time if they need seven or more yards on third down.
Tags: Bruce Arians, third downs
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