Inside The Bills

3rd down breakdown

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2010 – 9:45 am

On defense the Bills problems getting off the field are well documented, but on offense despite a low third down conversion percentage (26.1%) there is some hope of things changing for the better if one looks at the numbers a bit closer.

“We’ve been fairly successful if you look at the 3rd-and-5 or less type plays,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick. “It’s the third and longs. It’s when we’re getting into those longer down and distances where we’ve really struggled. Our third downs have been awful this year, but if you break it down into yardage, the shorter down and distances we’ve been fairly good at it.”

Fitzpatrick is correct. Here are the conversion percentages for the shorter and longer down and distances for Buffalo’s offense thus far this season.

3rd-and-1 to 2 – conversion pct. 40% (2-for-5)
3rd-and-3 to 5 – conversion pct. 50% (4-for-8)

3rd-and-6 to 10 – conversion pct. 14.3% (2-for-14)
3rd-and-11 to 15 – conversion pct. 0% (0-for-12)
3rd-and-16 plus – conversion pct. 33% (1-for-3)

As you can see above when the Bills keep it in 3rd-and-5 or less they convert 46% of the time collectively, which is above the league average. But if it’s 3rd-and-6 or more it gets ugly in a hurry. Buffalo has had 42 third down opportunities in the first four games and on 29 occasions they’ve been in 3rd-and-6 or more (69%). Bottom line too many long down and distance situations on third down.

“There are two ways to solve that,” said Fitzpatrick. “One, we have to complete balls and find ways to get guys the ball in the hands of our receivers even if it’s short of the sticks on those longer yardage plays. And the other way is to stay out of that down and distance. So we’re evaluating first and second down and the efficiency of those, and not having those negative plays. The sacks, the incompletions, those sorts of things.”

“I think we’re tops in the league in third-and-long situations,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “That’s what’s killing us more than anything, it’s third-and-long. Third-and-five or less, we’re not bad. We’re just getting too many third-and-longs. We’ve got penalties, we’ve got sacks, we’ve got things that create long yardage situations and we’re not good enough to overcome that right now. So we’ve got to be smarter about how we avoid bad plays so that we don’t end up in third-and-long, that will help our third-down percentage greatly.”

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