NFL Week 3: Tony Sparano, New York Jets Need to Have Third-Down Success

Adam WaksmanCorrespondent IIISeptember 17, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16 :  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets gets sacked by  LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter on September 16, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 27-10. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The New York Jets trounced the Buffalo Bills 48-28 in Week 1. They then got beat handily by the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-10 in Week 2.

The difference was third-down conversions.

Third-down conversion percentage is a better signifier of wins in the NFL than most statistics. It is likely one of the reasons new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was hired. Sparano has a history of making good play calls on third down.

Before Sparano became a head coach in Miami, he had the opportunity to call the offensive plays for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. That year, the Cowboys led the NFC in third-down conversion percentage (47 percent).

For comparison, those same Cowboys converted only 41 percent in 2005 and only 43 percent in 2007.

In Week 1, the Jets converted a phenomenal 71 percent of their third downs. Punter Robert Malone did not even see the field until the fourth quarter. In Week 2, the Jets converted a miserable 33 percent, which contributed heavily to the Steelers possessing the ball for most of the second half.

One of Sparano's most important jobs in Week 3 and for the rest of the season will be to convert third downs and keep the offense on the field.

The best way for the Jets to beat themselves next weekend in Miami would be to keep putting the ball in Miami's hands until the defense gets fatigued and starts to let up.


Adam Waksman is a featured columnist for the Bleacher Report New York Jets community. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter to receive updates right away.