Breaking Down Bengals Third Downs This Season

Most smart football fans realize that a critical component to winning is keeping your offense on the field, moving the ball and eventually scoring points. The difficulty in sustaining drives are keeping down distances within manageable situations -- aka, doing well on first and second down.

The Bengals aren't doing well on third down, at all. Through seven games, the Bengals have converted 34 of 101 third down opportunities (33.7%), which is the lowest franchise conversation rate dating back to the 2000 season (33.92%).

On first down, the Bengals are averaging 2.96 yards-per-rush (4.14 average yards per passing plays -- not just completions). On second down, the Bengals are averaging 2.48 yards-per-rush (4.41 average yards on passing plays). Typically, averages like that leaves an offense with long to-go distances making it nearly impossible to convert with any consistency.

And it shows. Of 101 situations, the Bengals offense is averaging 7.3 yards to go on third down. A more telling breakdown is this. When the Bengals convert a third down, they're averaging 4.9 yards to-go before the snap. On third downs that they don't convert, they're averaging 8.6 yards to-go. It's not just about converting third downs; rather successfully gaining yards on first and second to make third downs much more manageable. If Palmer were the quarterback, it would be different (see below). But Fitzpatrick needs 3-4 yards per play on first and second (no incompletions), otherwise, we're going to be punting rather quickly.

The more we have long-down scenarios, the more the Bengals are sacked. Of the 26 times quarterbacks have been sacked, 12 have come on third downs with an average of 9.3 yards to-go for conversion. That's telling, because the longer a third down is forced to be converted, the longer it takes for deeper routes to develop.

During Palmer's final two games (so far) this season, he recorded a 135.6 passer rating on third down (94.2 for the season) -- Ryan Fitzpatrick has been horrible with a 27.4 passer rating. Both quarterbacks have targed T.J. Houshmandzadeh the most, combining for 21 targets -- 13 of which Houshmandzadeh has converted out of 16 total receptions. In recent seasons, Houshmandzadeh has been the go-to guy on third down -- this season is no different.

Rushing the ball is non-existant -- mostly because of the consistent long to-go distances. However, Perry has rushed seven times on third-and-two (or shorter), converted twice (six yards, two yards) and either lost yards, or rushed for no-gain on five occassions (aka, 71% of the time). And if you take out the six-yard gain against the Titans, Perry has totaled one-yard lost on six tries. Watson has a couple of seven yard gains, but neither were converted; both were long eight and 10 yards to-go respectively.

Here's an easier to read breakdown of all that accumlated stats I spent Monday morning compiling (and the boss is pissed).

Converted Third Downs 33.7% (34/101)
Avg. To Go on Third Down 7.3
Avg. To-Go When Converting 4.9
Avg. To-Go When Fail To Convert 8.6
Avg. To-Go When QB is Sacked 9.3

The following is a player breakdown on third downs.

Palmer:

  Att. Comp Yards TD INT Sacks Rating
Ravens 8 4 37 0 1 1 9.10
Titans 9 4 31 0 0 0 53.5
Giants 12 10 103 1 0 3 135.1
Cowboys 13 8 98 2 0 0 136.1
  42 26 269 3 1 4 94.2

Fitzpatrick:

  Att. Comp Yards TD INT Sacks Rating
Browns 8 3 27 0 2 1 0.0
Jets 9 6 41 0 0 2 * 76.6
Steelers 9 4 30 0 0 5 53.0
  26 13 98 0 0 8 27.4

* Both fumbled -- one lost.

Fitzpatrick has scrambled/QB sneaked seven times converting four first downs (two against the Browns, one against the Jets, one against the Steelers).

A breakdown of rushing attempts on third down. This might seemed garbled, but within the players, it should read yards, attempts, conversions and touchdowns.

  Combined Perry Watson Benson
Ravens   -2-1-0-0 7-1-0-0 --
Titans   6-3-1-0 7-1-0-0 --

Giants

  2-1-1-0 -- --
Browns   0-1-0-0 -- --
Cowboys   -- -- 2-1-1-0
Jets   -1-1-0-0 -- --
Steelers   -- 1-1-0-0 --
    5-7-2-0 15-3-0-0 2-1-1-0

 

Houshmandzadeh has converted 13 receptions into first downs, including two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys.

Houshmandzadeh:

  Conv. Targ. Rec. Yards TD
Ravens 0 2 1 7 0
Titans 0 0 0 0 0

Giants

3 4 3 46 0
Browns 2 4 3 27 0
Cowboys 3 6 4 62 2
Jets 2 2 2 16 0
Steelers 3 3 3 29 0
  13 21 16 187 2

Chad Johnson:

  Conv. Targ. Rec. Yards TD
Ravens 1 2 1 22 0
Titans 1 3 1 13 0

Giants

1 3 2 23 1
Browns 0 2 0 0 0
Cowboys 0 1 0 0 0
Jets 1 2 1 13 0
Steelers 0 0 0 0 0
  4 13 5 71 1

Antonio Chatman:

  Conv. Targ. Rec. Yards TD
Ravens 0 1 0 0 0
Titans 1 2 1 8 0

Giants

2 2 2 18 0
Browns 0 2 0 0 0
Cowboys 2 3 3 31 0
Jets 0 0 0 0 0
Steelers 0 0 0 0 0
  5 10 6 57 0

Ben Utecht:

  Conv. Targ. Rec. Yards TD
Ravens 0 2 2 8 0
Titans 0 0 0 0 0

Giants

0 0 0 0 0
Browns 0 0 0 0 0
Cowboys 0 0 0 0 0
Jets 0 1 0 0 0
Steelers 1 3 3 22 0
  1 6 5 30 0

 

 

 

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