Taking a second to look at third downs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2014 – 10:24 am

Bruce Arians was talking about the third down the Cardinals faced last weekend in Atlanta in the third quarter when the team needed just two yards for a first down. Speedster wideout Ted Ginn’s route called for a double move and sprint down the sideline. Arians felt the Falcons’ defensive back committed illegal contact, but there was no flag. Quarterback Drew Stanton took the shot. It fell incomplete. The Cards punted.

“That’s the way we play football,” Arians said. “That’s the way (Stanton) is coached to play, and Teddy ran a good route.”

It pretty much summed up the way third downs have gone of late for the Cardinals too. It’s not like throwing a bomb on third down has been odd for this team. The 75-yard touchdown bomb to beat the Eagles was on third-and-5 (with the Cards needing just a field goal) late in the game. Risks will be taken by a B.A.-offense.

But obviously, the Cardinals have to find a way to turn third downs into first downs more often. In the past two losses, the Cards are 4-for-19. Only once did two of those conversions come on the same drive. But it was in Seattle, and the chance for a third third-down conversion bounced off the chest of wide receiver Jaron Brown in the end zone on a painful dropped pass.

Arians makes the point — which is both good and bad — that it’s not like the situations have been third-and-long most of the time. Of those 19 third downs, the Cardinals have needed six or fewer yards on 10 of them. Unfortunately, of those 10, the Cards have converted only two of them. That’s stunning.

“That’s the thing that’s kind of surprising is we were in very manageable third downs,” Stanton said. “We just had a tipped pass here, didn’t throw the ball accurately there, a lot of different things. We just need to understand why it’s happening and move on.”

The math is simple for the Cardinals. In their nine wins, they have converted 49.2 percent of their third downs. In their three losses, the percentage is just 20. Getting Larry Fitzgerald back on the field should help the cause, but regardless, the Cardinals have to find a way to sustain more drives. Yes, we’re talking the obvious here. But it’s the basics of football the Cards are searching for these days.


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Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »

27 Responses to “Taking a second to look at third downs”

  1. By Richard L on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Really BA, 2 yards and we take a deep shot. I thought you were smarter than that.

    Darren, any chance you post a picture of you wearing the Cardinals Christmas sweater?

  2. By Darren Urban on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Richard L —

    RE: Sweater

    I don’t have one, so that could be tough.

  3. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Coach: “discretion is the greater part of valor”, backup QB who’s been off target much of day, not getting calls all day, behind on road, 3rd and 2, get the two, go for broke on next set of downs…we needed the W. BA was right (but that gets us nada), arm bar was obvious, had it been Fitz, its called, no? Same situation at home, go for it…

    Go Cards, love that “Lombardi Trophy or nothing at all” line, lol…

  4. By joannamcgrath on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Basics of football: Throwing airball into double coverage when you need two yards to sustain the drive is bad play calling.

    There is a huge difference between smart risk taking and blatant stupidity. BA’s play calling leaves a lot to be desired.

  5. By D on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Well, on second downs gaining no yards running Ellington up the middle sure helps this team getting into 3rd and long. This team needs to run the ball better to get 3rd 3, 3rd 4. (duh, obvious)

    We all love those bombs to Brown when they work, but when they don’t to Ginn on 3rd and 2, we have to just realize, that is BA and his offense mindset to take the good with the bad..

    I think we need more short safe throw’s to our TE’s who have become invisible the last several weeks…

  6. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    PS: Not to be misunderstood, I’ll take BA’s play calling over any current NFL head coach, and any we’ve ever had… just sayin’. And agree 100%, Drew is our guy.. period, unless he goes down. 100%.

  7. By Ryan on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    You guys crack me, everyone called BA a genius last for that third down call against the Lions when CP3 hit AE. This is what he is, I know your frustrated. But we still control our own destiny. I Trust Bruce.

  8. By Dynosoar on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    The good quarterbacks throw check-down passes on third down. Elite quarterbacks throw for first downs or touchdowns on third down.

    BA calls for first down and touchdown passes on third down and both Palmer and Stanton throw those passes. Would have loved to have seen BA as quarterback with this mindset.

    Our QBs are of elite caliber (their play may not always be elite, but their mindset IS elite.)

    The Lombardi trophy or nothing at all!

    (I Would love to see some posters in the stands with this statement and let all the experts know we believe in our team whether they do or not. This would be a good one for TV breakaways and the announcers commentary. Now, if there were a hundred such posters…)

  9. By Dynosoar on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Patrick Hoog aka DTL,

    Thanks, I love it too. After all, that’s the goal.

    We know what nothing at all feels like (SB XLIII, last week in Atlanta) – Let’s get the Lombardi and see what that feels like.

    Go Cards!

    The Lombardi trophy or nothing at all!

  10. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Dyno: lol. haha … need this one Sunday…wow… then 3 game round robin, like our chances if we win Sunday 😉 still can make a case for 12-4…

  11. By Dynosoar on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Patrick Hoog aka DTL,

    Personally, though it would be difficult I believe it’s doable. I want to win out.
    I also like our chances if we win on Sunday and the best part, we’re really good at stopping the run and just like Dallas, KC is built to win on the run and just like Detroit, they’re built to win on defense.

    We stooped the Cowboys run and we scored on the Lions defense, I believe we can do this and win against the Chiefs. Can we… we’ll see, but I believe we can.

    The Lombardi trophy or nothing at all!

  12. By Chuck 1 on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Is BA stubborn?
    If the Cards need to convert 3rd downs and they are in a short yardage situation, why in the world won’t he forgo the home run ball occasionally?

  13. By Darren Urban on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck 1 —

    RE: Need to convert

    Is there a time when a team doesn’t need to convert a third down?

  14. By Lee W. Flanagan on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    10 bucks says we have well over 100 yards rushing this week. New players sometimes brings renewed hope.

  15. By joannamcgrath on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Ryan: For the record, I have never personally been a fan of the play calling. Sure, you look like a genius when it works, but there is a reason why nearly every successful offense in the league isn’t throwing long on 3rd and 2.

    The probability of missing is too high to make up for those times when you connect. You wind up punting over and over again with low conversion rates on what should be high percentage third and short downs.

    Arians has never had a team score enough points when he has been the play caller, look up Pittsburg’s offensive stats when he was calling the shots.

    Arians is a fantastic head coach, but his play calling is predictable and the results are clear. He should step down and let the OC call the shots

  16. By D on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Greg Gumbel…looks like my mute button will get a workout…at least it’s not his brother, Bryant…that would cause me to listen to the Spanish broadcast…and I don’t speak Spanish…

  17. By Chuck 1 on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply


    Of course, teams try to (need to?) convert every third down.
    But, should the Cards try to do that by throwing the home run ball so frequently especially when Stanton and his receivers have been having problems hooking up?

  18. By Lee W. Flanagan on Dec 4, 2014 | Reply

    Man up and put your names on your posts and your thumbs signs. Darren let’s hear a criticism. Ha

  19. By Lee W. Flanagan on Dec 5, 2014 | Reply

    Smooth segue.

  20. By clssylssy on Dec 5, 2014 | Reply

    At times, I haven’t been BA’s biggest fan because of his stubbornness (that comes across as arrogance) in not trying different things, however I do like the fact that he doesn’t always play it safe, and most of the time those risk have paid off. I do think we have the talent at the WR position (or did early on) to take those long shots down the field whereas our run game as been so weak that the odds are probably just as good at connecting on one of those long shots as making the yards on the ground (we have averaged something like 3 yrds). The play calling has been pretty predictable as of late but there was a time when it was the play calling that made the difference and the high risks paid off (against Seattle last season in there only loss at home). Our losses have been a combination of things but come down to basic execution errors, the root of which sometimes comes across as apathy or boredom on the part of the players which hasn’t been addressed at any level. Fresh players DO bring fresh enthusiasm but also fresh errors we can’t afford.
    I keep going back to the 9ers game and how different this team looked when we came out fast and everybody was playing with the intensity we seem to only muster against our division rival to the west. We need to play like that again against the Chiefs and BA should recognize that he is going to be under the microscope on this game with comparisons drawn between he and Andy Reid and the chess match they are playing on the field. I actually believe BA is our best option at play calling, he has demonstrated he can craft the plays but has to use the resources we have available…it’s not a one size fits all deal and we don’t have a Darren Sproles or Eddie Lacy or Jamal Charles but do have a superior WR corp.and our defense and special teams have been killer (especially at home). Stanton is mobile, can scramble to extend plays and is smart. Seems like EVERYBODY needs to get behind him mentally, verbally, and with play because this is what we have and this game is going to tell alot about the remainder of this season. Nest season will take care of itself but THE TIME IS NOW. WE CONTROL OUR DESTINY! TIME FOR THE RED SEA TO RISE UP!

  21. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Dec 5, 2014 | Reply

    D: lol, omg, oh man… true

  22. By clssylssy on Dec 5, 2014 | Reply

    Fans need to remember BA knows the Chiefs organization, having his first NFL job there as a RB coach, and while HCs have come and gone, Chiefs football and the Chief’s mentality has been steadfast and there is a sort of separate reality in KC that is all about the Chiefs. You can bet this game will be significant on so many levels, so to come away with a W for this game, despite their inconsistencies (much like the Cards) will be HUGE and perhaps just the confidence builder and shot in the arm everyone needs to spark the renewed energy we need as we enter this final stretch! LET’S GET’R’ DONE! BELIEVE!

  23. By Dr. G. on Dec 5, 2014 | Reply

    joannamcgrath – – Yours is a fresh perspective. I hope you read my post on BA needing to find an OC next year to call the plays. He cannot be objective as things are… He loves being the OC with the HC’s title. How will he monitor the now auto-pilot Defense in 2015 when Bowles leaves? He loves it now, but in 2015, change would be more effective. Goodwin is not ready though….

    “D” I never post LOL, but I will on the Gumbo Boys. I could help with the Espanol numeros to keep score… Trujillo & Cantu are passionately entertaining. You need to hear them call the TDs…!!

    clssy…yeah… Why do we need an OC? Couldn’t we just have an Assistant to the HC to help with the Offense? BA says he can’t find someone to call plays by not acting on it….later CARDS FANS

  24. By clssylssy on Dec 6, 2014 | Reply

    Dr. G….Any suggestions? Anybody halfway decent will be headed for a HC job and BA doesn’t strike me as someone who would relinquish the driver seat willingly. Plus, the players trust him and play for him; I was under the impression that Goodwin was our OC???…and we have about a dozen Assistants.
    I don’t think the outcome would be any different, just another target to shoulder the
    blame when things go south (no pun intended).

  25. By Dr. G. on Dec 7, 2014 | Reply

    clssy- – RE: OC…Again, it appears that Goodwin can’t call plays. If you remember, Arians said when he came here that he would call the plays until he can find someone to do it better….ambiguous at best ((BA or BS?)) because he nor Keim have been searching. ((apparently)) Darren would know. In reply, yes, there will be a number of men who can call plays, especially after the releases next month. This is not my opinion; I am simply quoting BA….

    There is a better play-caller out there who would be accountable. We need to employ techniques that best fit the skills of the players, not happening. Fitz? Ellington? Floyd? RBs? That IS my opinion.!

    We must support BA as the coach, but you cannot believe all the players are 100% behind his OC approach; the fans are rumbling; the media has questions. This realization would become evident if the team skids very far. The players are always mute to save face. If you are watching the same games I am, you must conclude that the Defense, Bowles specifically, has carried this team for all of BA’s tenure. Who do you think is happier, the players on the Offense or the players on the Defense.? How many wins if we relied on the Offense..??

    Agreed, BA will not relinquish the play calling easily. He is the best, just ask him. “”The driver’s seat”” as you call it, needs to be the HC for the entire team, not just the OC Play caller as it is now. If you think he can be “”objective,”” please explain where I am wrong here. I support BA, but there are issues; he rarely concedes play calling errors…or never..! ((Mention how he monitors the Defense also))

    You are passionate for the team as I, but I disagree with the premises you post this time. Wasn’t it you who said we don’t another need Buddy Ryan here? The fans and mgmt need accountability…win or lose…

    We need to kick some KC booty today…. Be well….

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