It’s basic football. Convert third downs, you stay on the field.
That was Bruce Arians’ lament about the end of the Rams game. “The fourth quarter for us came down to two third downs,” Arians said.
The obvious one was the third-and-2 at the two-minute warning, the wheel route out of the backfield by running back Andre Ellington in which he was wide open and the right pass from Carson Palmer would have found a streaking Ellington for what very well could have been a touchdown. The play was designed so well, with Michael Floyd sitting down just past the first down marker and drawing not only the cornerback but also the safety, allowing Ellington lots of room past (too-slow-to-cover-him) linebacker James Laurinaitis.
The other was a third-and-8 the possession before, when Palmer tried to get the ball on an out pattern to Andre Roberts and couldn’t connect. (The play before, Fitz was open deep down the middle of the field but Laurinaitis made a nice play to tip it away.)
But the reality is that the Cardinals did a pretty good job on third downs. For the game, the Cards were 7-for-14 on third downs (and held the Rams to 4-for-11 … even if the defense didn’t force St. Louis into enough third down situations.) Fitz’s 24-yard TD catch was a third down play. Yes, the fourth quarter was an issue, with the Cards only 1-for-4, but 50 percent was still a massive improvement over last season.
Last year, the Cards converted just 25.2 percent of their third downs. They had at least seven third-down conversions just once in a game — seven exactly — and that was, coincidentally in St. Louis and out of 19 attempts. (We won’t talk about the ugly 0-for-15 day in New York against the Jets.) They never in a game converted more than 40 percent of third downs.
Arians is right, the Cards have to convert at crucial times late. It probably would have changed the outcome. But it’s an important sea change going forward.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Michael Floyd
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