Some further third down-y thoughts

Brian Cook posted this in response to that Dave Curtis piece on third down conversion rates I linked to yesterday:

… Just looking at third down rates is goofy because first and second down contribute to the distance you have to go—you’re really looking at “first and second and third down conversion rate,” which is fine if you want to look at that. Just don’t make it seem like third down is really really important when your number doesn’t control for the effects of first and second.

Well… yeah, pretty much.  I mean, it’s hard to argue with Brian’s overall point, but I ‘m not sure that explains everything about Curtis’ numbers.  What if a defense is bad about preventing conversions on third down and seven or more yards, or if an offense has trouble picking up first downs on third and short yardage situations?  Those are both cases where the contributions on first and second downs Brian contemplates don’t have as much of an impact on drives.

There’s no way I’ve got the time to run down an analysis of every team Curtis referenced, but I was curious how much the 2010 Georgia results are in line with Brian’s observation.

A look at Georgia’s stats at discloses plenty of third down information.  First, the big picture:

Next, here are the conversion rates for various distances.

  • rushing offense:  3 yards or less, 18-30; 4-6 yards, 2-14; 7-9 yards, 1-14; 10 yards or more, 1-6
  • rushing defense:  3 yards or less, 21-35; 4-6 yards, 6-13; 7-9 yards, 3-11; 10 yards or more, 2-15
  • passing offense:  3 yards or less, 10-18; 4-6 yards, 13-32; 7-9 yards, 7-26; 10 yards or more, 5-23
  • passing defense:  3 yards or less, 6-10; 4-6 yards, 8-27; 7-9 yards, 12-29; 10 yards or more, 11-32

Did you catch the anomaly?  If not, let me repeat the data with emphasis.

  • rushing offense:  3 yards or less, 18-30; 4-6 yards, 2-14; 7-9 yards, 1-14; 10 yards or more, 1-6
  • rushing defense:  3 yards or less, 21-35; 4-6 yards, 6-13; 7-9 yards, 3-11; 10 yards or more, 2-15
  • passing offense:  3 yards or less, 10-18; 4-6 yards, 13-32; 7-9 yards, 7-26; 10 yards or more, 5-23
  • passing defense:  3 yards or less, 6-10; 4-6 yards, 8-27; 7-9 yards, 12-29; 10 yards or more, 11-32

In other words, if you were an offense facing last year’s Georgia defense, you stood a much better chance of converting on third and long passing plays (37.7%) than you did on third and medium ones (29.63%).  Some of that is the result of Georgia playing some truly exceptional defense in third down and medium distance situations (opposing passer rating:  53.42!), but, still there’s something going on with the longer distances (note that Georgia’s conversion rate on offense in those circumstances was under 25%).  Any ideas about what the cause(s) for that might have been?


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

24 responses to “Some further third down-y thoughts

  1. Will Trane

    Break it down for the first 6 games first the last six games of the regular season on both sides of the ball. I think there will be differnce.
    Houston should have stayed for his senior year. Plus changes in secondary personnel as the season went along. Like to see those numbers.
    Offense…underperforming O line, no running game, and a young, inexperienced QB for the season. Any improvement in those three areas will certainly improve the Ws’.


  2. Wheel route. Boom.

    Seriously, Georgia played zone about 95% of the time on 3rd and long. How many times did we rush more than four on 3rd and long? 10 times, maybe? Teams got very good at exploiting the softer coverage.

    Only 3 of those 23 plays went for big yardage (25+), but 15 of them went for more than 15 yards. Seems to be a serious seam in the zone.


    • Go Dawgs!

      It didn’t matter what the situation was. 3rd and short. 3rd and long. You’re getting your first down if you’re facing the 2010 Georgia Bulldogs defense. Cook’s point is all well and good, but I think the thing it ignores is that if you’re doing a good job on 1st and 2nd and then giving up the farm on 3rd, not only are you going to get demoralized, but you’re also going to get worn out.


  3. It seemed like all year we were seeing offenses get a receiver between the corners and safeties and wide receivers dragging across the middle to outrun linebackers. In both cases, those can be laid at the feet of the inability to get pressure consistently and then collapse the pocket when the QB steps up. These plays aren’t quick hitting where you throw to a spot after a 3-step drop. They are slow-developing where the QB has to wait for the right moment for the receiver to come clear. Our safety play in the passing game didn’t help matters much either.


  4. Regular Guy

    I have no stats to back this up at all, but it seemed like we were more likely to bring pressure last year on short & medium range plays, whereas on long yardage plays we seemed to back off. So if the QB is going to have more time to survey the field, he’s more likely to convert, regardless of down & distance.

    I’m not down on Grantham, but I really was surprised at how infrequently we brought pressure last year in obvious passing situations. The plan seemed to just be send Justin Houston and 3 other guys, and hope Houston breaks through. After all the preseason talk from Grantham of confusing & pressuring the QB, I was a little disappointed in this. Hope he gets more aggressive this year now that the players should better understand everything.


  5. Bulldawgy

    I think the folks that lay the blame for our 3rd down woes on lack of pressuring the QB are spot on. The pass rush – especially on 3rd down – for the last SEVERAL years has been weak and ineffectual.

    I fall into the group of folks that lay a significant amount of blame for our poor performances the last several years on our lack of aggressive play – on both lines of scrimmage. It is trite – and a cliche – but that is where games are won and lost.


  6. MtnDawg

    No pressure on the QB.

    DB play that was suspect. Blown coverages.

    Watch the UK game in Lexington for a microcosm.


  7. jferg

    For perspective–is UGA’s appx 25% conversion on those distances “an outlier” from everyone else? I would think that 25% or so would be about average for 3rd and long converstion….meaning our offense performed much like everyone else’s offense on 3rd and long (when not playing the Dawgs, of course)


  8. GreenDawg

    QB pressure has to be the answer here. I’m sure it seems like it happened a lot more than it actually did, but the wheel route seemed to kill us at least once a game on third and long. That’s not exactly a quick developing route. When that route is getting hit consistently then there is definitely a problem with pressure.


  9. Skeeter

    Alt headline:
    Third Downy Softness


  10. 2011-dawgtrain

    With litttle qb pressure, bigger and better dbs are a must.It does look like CTG isn’t protecting his weakness on 3rd and long. I think that is a nfl way of thinking.It isn’t an accident the prostyle teams were not as effective vs. UGA.


  11. Irwin Fletcher

    Execution was often terrrrrible.

    The plays that sum up the lapses on defense are pretty easy to identify over the season…but the two that stick out to me on 3rd down come from the Colorado game on Colorado’s last drive.

    Colorado has 3rd and 13. Defense is in the zone set. I think we rush 3…maybe 4. Their QB rolls out and has no where to go. Perfect play call BUT….Rambo forgets down and distance, sees Stewart out of the pocket, bites on the QB run for some reason (he has a 13 yard cushion!), and lets a man get behind him wide open in coverage for the first down and an 18 yard pick up. That’s just piss poor execution.

    Same drive…. Colorado has 3rd and 10. We go aggressive with a rush when they have been doing nothing but running and burning clock (apparently as a reaction to our bad execution while playing the soft zone?), our rush gets upfield past the QB, our DB’s…having been burned just a few plays earlier don’t react, and the QB scrambles for 9 yards leading to a pickup on 4th and 1.

    Was it because we were soft and played zone? Were we too aggressive?

    I tend to believe when we weren’t getting outcoached, we weren’t executing…and when we were getting outcoached, we still weren’t executing.

    On that same drive…just when you think we can’t do anything right, we get a huge sack and push them to a 52 yard fg, which they miss. I think CTG is a solid coach…I’d like to see us make a jump this season to being able to execute and finish stronger.

    It just baffles my mind…


  12. Scorpio Jones, III

    I can read the numbers just as everybody else can. Do I completely understand what they mean….hell no.

    But I do know this number: $750,000 per year.

    If there is not significant improvement on all downs on defense….for whatever reason….big nose, better execution, better schematic understanding, more fire, or all of the above, Mike Bobo’s offense better make giant strides, and I mean like giant.

    Cause no matter how high you can count, we have not stopped anybody when we had to in quite a while.


  13. lrgk9

    Good stuff


  14. Reg

    Could be a number of things:
    1- Safeties too deep
    2- Justin Houston rushing forward too much instead of dropping back into zone coverages (Watch end of Ga Tech game to see how effectively Tech moved the ball when Houston was coming forward)
    3- Linebackers who got caught in personel mis-matches with running backs
    4- Defensive philosophy on thrid and long is not give up the big play, play deep to short, so the zone in between safeties and linebackers is too large
    5- Poor conditioning, a lot of these plays happened in the fourth quarter, the players were tired


  15. Quentin

    The 3-4 has a problem against the pass. Just 3 defensive lineman being blocked by 5 offensive lineman don’t create pressure on the quarterback. You can’t really change that. Dick LeBeau solved this with the creation of the zone blitz, where the players drop deeper into coverage and create uncertainty with the quarterback making the reads harder, and the open space smaller. I’d expect Grantham to use the Zone blitz a lot more in year 2 with his 3-4, it’s more advanced, so he started simple, and Grantham started without proper players, size wise, to run his system.


  16. Gator Dan the Bull Gator Man with the big Gator Dick that he will once again shove into UGA's a$$

    Florida certainly didn’t have any problem with you pathetic mutts. Whether watching burton run for 50 or brantley hit demos and rainey, the result was the same – another loss for your inferior team and program. And not only do we do it on the gridiron, we do it on the hardwood – in two overtimes!

    The fact is Jeremy Foley has put us in a position to never, ever fall to your level, and trust me – we will not.

    Enjoy mediocrity for many years to come b/c that’s the Gators are here to stay and are NOT letting you past us.

    Now GFY georgia people.


    • Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman, Damn Glad To Meet Ya

      I am deeply concerned about your mental health. Someone who wants to have anal sex with a dog has a serious problem. You should check in immediately at Shands Hospital Mental Health Unit. I also strongly recommend that you have your penis examined for worms.


  17. Gator Dan the Bull Gator Man with the big Gator Dick that he will once again shove into UGA's a$$

    Furthermore, just wait until Driskell gets rolling. You’ll not get within 4 touchdowns of us.


  18. Quentin

    I should have said, you can solve this 2 ways.
    1) Quaterback pressure—you can use Linebacker blitzes from left, middle or right, corner blitzes from either side, and even safety blitzes. They key is you got to have a big body that can take up 2 offensive lineman in the middle at Nose, Tyson not a Nosetackle, Jenkins is, will free up the Linebackers from the offensive lineman getting into the second level to block them. The Defensive ends also need to be good enough to demand double teams. You’ve got to get pressure on the Quarterback, a large goal of the 3-4 is to pressure the Quarterback, move the pocket
    2- But, since you’re blitzing, typically this leaves you vulnerable to slants and quick passes. So that’s where the zone blitz from Dick LeBeau comes in so handy, because now, you can blitz a linebacker or defensive back, and drop a defensive linman into the flats or a 1/5 field area. You can get a lot of interceptions using this. Your defensive ends have to be fast enough to drop into coverage, Tyson & Drew will be, among others.

    I expect Georgia to really improve on third and long with a better nosetackle, better defensive ends, less offensive lineman getting into the second level, more advanced zone blitzes like crosses & waves since it’s year two with the 3-4 putting pressur eon the quarterback, and more drops by the defensive ends into short areas, leaving less space.

    The zone blitz adds a lot of unpredictibility to the whole thing.


  19. Streakin' Dawg

    Probably some shit Willie Martinez is responsible for.